Anti-trafficking crusader nun wins achievers’ award

By Matters India Reporter

New Delhi, Feb. 11, 2019: Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sister Annie Jesus Mary was among six persons who received the tenth Jijabai Achievers Awards for making viable impacts among the poor in the grassroots.

The Women Development Cell of Shivaji College, University of Delhi, distributed the award on January 16 as part of an international seminar on “Gender Parity: Issues and Challenges.”

The Shivaji College set up the Jijabai Achievers Awards in 2009, to honor individuals working for women’s welfare and self-reliance.

The award in memory of Jijabai Shahaji Bhosale (1598-1674), popularly known as Rajmata Jijabai, mother of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his brother Shambhaji. She is considered an embodiment of spirit of women empowerment and hailed for fearlessness, leadership; and self-sacrifice, that she inculcated in her children.

The awards were given away by chief guest Rakesh Shrivastav, secretary of the Women and Child Welfare department, and Aparna Nambinadan, founder of Aparna foundation.

Sister Annie Jesus Mary is the director of Jeevan Jharna Vikas Sanstha (JJVS, foundation for the progress of life stream) at Kansabel in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

The other awardees are Shyam Sunder Paliwal, father of eco-feminism, Piplantri village; Vidya Nambirajan, CEO, paramount auto bay services; Lakshmi N. Menon, founder of Pure Living and Wisdom; Ramesh Awasthi and Manisha Gupta, founders of Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (Society for women’s all-round development).

The Shivaji College’s women development picked up Sister Annie Jesus, whose anti-human trafficking activities has created ripples in Chhattisgarh in the past few year

She had bagged the state award for anti-human trafficking on March 8, 2016, from Raman Singh, then then Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, and the Women Empowerment Award from the federal Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, New Delhi, from Indian President Ramnath Kovind, on March 8, 2018.

The college said it had assessed the Catholic nun as an empowered, determined woman who fights tirelessly against the evil of child trafficking in Chhattisgarh. She takes care of women, rescuing them from human traffickers and empowering them by engaging them in income generating activities through various initiatives.

She has faced a lot of obstacles, including verbal threats from the families of victims and from criminals, offers of bribes to withdraw cases and lack of support from multiple groups such as the parents, of victims, the police, the local government and the panchayat (village council).

“Sister Annie has single highhandedly made a tremendous contribution towards women empowerment and has given many girls a new life and solid goals,” the college noted.

The nun’s JJVS, a not-for profit organization, is among the pioneers in the state to address the issue of human trafficking. It works for the all-round development of the tribal communities in Chhattisgarh. She is based at the district of Jashpur, Chhattisgarh’s northern region sharing borders with Jharkhand and Odisha.

The organization undertakes educational-health-sociopastoral activities for the integral development of indigenous tribal community. Programs and activities address the thrust areas such as protecting tribal land, tribal migration, livelihood options, women empowerment, community health activities, village development and youth empowerment.

As a grassroots organization working for the development of tribal community, JJVS mainly focused on improving the quality of life of tribal women and girls through developing practical systems and strategies and enabling larger participation of the communities with minimum external input and resources.

It made sure that the peoples’ organizations collectively engaged in mobilizing the locally available resources and stakeholders to address their common problems.

Ensuring the participation of all stakeholders was the primary strategy of the organization. Hence, JJVS shaped itself to incorporate the views, opinions and experience of the local communities into its programs. This paved the way for greater cooperation and support from the community as well as other stake holders within and outside the institution.

Mobilization of different sections of the community empowered the marginalized tribal women and girls as to enable them to continue to fight for their fundamental rights. JJVS had addressed the issue of human trafficking way back in 2003 before it became a legal entity as a registered society in 2006. The society addressed the issue of trafficking in a limited but effective way through community based forums.

With the support and partnership of UNICEF Raipur, the organization has ventured into protecting tribal women and young girls from being trafficked daily to other parts of the country and abroad as domestic workers, cheap child labor, commercial sex exploitation and many other forms of exploitation.

JJVS’ key focus during the past few years was rescue, reintegration and rehabilitation. The organization realized that agents and touts lure tribal girls in Jashpur because of their lack of education, awareness and livelihood options.

Hence in 2014 it decided to focus on creating environment where all children get access to education, and livelihood options for their families.

In past five years, the organization has covered 71 panchayat, 180 villages of five blocks with awareness programs, workshops and training. It also covered up to 63 schools creating awareness among students and teachers.

Training and program are being conducted at district and state levels for various government departments. So far the organization has rescued 143 girls and 68 boys.

According to Sister Annie Jesus, abject poverty, wide spread substance abuse, absence of basic facilities and lack of educational and employment opportunities are major contributors to the rise in child trafficking incidents in Jashpur district.

She says her organization does not stop with creating awareness and rescuing victims of human trafficking. It also works for their rehabilitation in case their families reject them. They are given skill training m to enhance their livelihood opportunities and making them selfreliant.

JJVS believes in capacity building, counselling and training the victims and rural women for empowering them,” she added.

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