50 women from 16 states around India have convened at Amrita University for a historic cause. They have taken up the responsibility of becoming Community Organizers for the UNDEF Women Empowerment: Community Sanitation through Democratic Participation Project (WE:CSDP). They will become our first women leaders and Champions of Change. They will take part in a 10-day Train the Trainer initiative, inspired by the urgent need to improve sanitation in rural areas and the urgency to empower women and marginalized communities to participate in the democratic process and development efforts in their localities. Men and women facilitators from the villages have also convened for this special event.
Amrita University’s AMMACHI Labs proudly hosted the inaugural event at Amriteshwari Hall. The session commenced by inviting all the special guests to light a lamp together. This small act encompassed the very essence of the event, namely to light the lamps of courage and faith in women’s hearts and to bring light into their lives.
Professor Bhavani explained that AMMACHI Labs’ interventions are unique in that that they are holistic and aim not only to support women, but nature, and the entire community. The women who participate in these events are not only successful from a vocational perspective in the future, but are also happier individuals and strong community members.
Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya was a special guest on this occasion. She is the Head of the ETW France and Le Centre Amma-Ferme du Plessis près de Chartres, the main center in Pontgouin, France. She gave an inspiring talk and shared some highlights of Amma’s vision for women. “Women are not meek little lambs, but lionesses. They simply need to awaken and believe in themselves. Women’s natural compassion and sympathy have been misunderstood as weaknesses. These are not weaknesses, but the very fiber holding society together. For the good of the world, it is imperative that men and women come together.”
She went on to say that “Amma not only talks the talk but walks the walk. From scratch, Amma has built multiple schools and a hospital. Amma is actually much like a super manager, and has accomplished more than many men.”
This sentiment was shared by Dr. Sriram Devanathan, who is the Head of the Center for Excellence in Advanced Materials and Green Technologies at Amrita University. Dr. Sriram said that during darshan, Amma alone is more efficient than 400 CEOs put together, all while staying completely calm and centered. It is no surprise that women’s empowerment is so close to Amma’s heart. Evidently if more women realize their potential, magic can happen in society.
Sri Ranganji, head of Amrita Sree, also spoke at the event. Perhaps his actions speak louder than his words. Amrita Sree was founded after the 2004 Tsunami in order to bring sustainable sources of income to families. Today, Amrita Sree has spread all over India and nearly two lakhs of women have joined.
A very touching speech was given by Smt. Rajani Menon, Director of Amrita JSS and advisor for AMMACHI Labs. She spoke candidly of her first experiences in the villages, “ When I used visit tribal villages in remote areas, I would often slip on feces of small children in the walkways. One main reason for the spread of disease is that children openly defecate everywhere, and even in front of homes. Now, due to the sanitation outreach campaigns of AMMACHI Labs, this has been greatly reduced.” She went on to say some words of encouragement to the Champions of Change participants, “It is you who must grow in self-confidence, courage, and self-reliance, as well as empathy and compassion. I’m confident the training you will receive here, with the overflowing grace of Amma will lead you to sustainable development.”
A group picture was a highlight towards the end of the event. Many women embraced Bri. Dipamritaji with a lot of love and admiration and were inspired get started on the training program.
In the fall of 2016, Amrita University was awarded India’s first ever UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The UNESCO Chair will further the Center’s goals and promote international, inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities and collaborative work. At the event, Dr. Martin Schoenhals was also welcomed as a new full time professor at the Center for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. He is a cultural anthropology professor who has taught at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and other renowned academic institutions.
While the event commenced with a physical lighting of a lamp, the event ended with the reminder that the real lamp to be lit is from within the women’s hearts. May they find that light!