This Mother’s day I am going to write about a different kind of mother and her special womb that has given refuge to the often ignored indigenous population of northeast India. A woman who derived her inspiration from the most unfortunate incident and without cultivating hate for the miscreants, she decided to strike the root cause of such crimes. This is the story of, Ananya Paul Dodmani, the founder of Tribal Connect. She is a professional criminal psychologist and a winner of several prestigious awards like Rex Karamveer Chakra 2019, Kalki Gaurav Samman 2019, Rashtriya Bal Samman Award, 2018, and Special Motherhood Honour by Woman Times, 2019. Yes, a special mother who is working tirelessly to bring attention to those secluded from civilization into the mainstream.
Based in Guwahati, Ananya’s life turned upside down when her father was kidnapped by the militants. She was studying in college during that time and the trauma that her family was put through during that incident left an irrevocable mark on her. Though her father showed great courage and could escape from his captors, the torture took a toll on his health, from which he could never recover.
Any normal person would then try to move away from that place, start afresh, and pose infinite hate towards the terrorists. But, not her. Ananya realized that only education can show these derailed masses in the right direction. She used her grief to shape her life as a tribal rights activist and started working towards rehabilitating the militants in Assam and overall helping the tribal people of those regions to lead a quality life.
She took it upon herself to build learning centers around those regions and today her work boasts about 146 such Learning centers where the tribal kids are not only imparted education but also take care of the food and other daily needs of those children.
One of the most interesting facts about this wonderful initiative which will surely surprise you is that she built the first learning center at the same place where her father was kidnapped! I was amazed by her sheer grit.
Indigenous Peoples in India
Indigenous Peoples in India comprise an estimated population of 104 million or 8.6% of the national. The largest concentrations of Indigenous Peoples are found in the seven northeastern states of India, and the so-called “central tribal belt” that stretches from Rajasthan to West Bengal. Though they comprise almost 9 percent of the total population, since independence their lives have seen little to no improvement, and are among the most vulnerable groups in the country. Along with that the rich natural resources that their land hold has been the reason for years of exploitation. Though the constitution provided them positive discrimination, a few decades of shockingly poor quality, and inadequate education – which was what the poor and underprivileged received – did not make up for centuries of neglect and abuse. And then there were the exploiters. Mining barons and billionaire tycoons used development – industry, jobs, employment, the economy – as justifications to systematically take over Adivasi territory. The lives of those original dwellers became worse from bad. The mainstream media is silent about their plight and the mainland is oblivious to their condition. And that is where the story of Ananya and her Tribal Connect starts.
Tribal Connect and their projects
Empowerment should be everyone’s right. With that vision in mind, Ananya started a journey to uplift the lives of the indigenous people who remain disconnected from modern life, while keeping their history, culture, and tradition intact. While working constantly in several remote places she often felt the need to be more focused on these special groups of people who are deprived of all sorts of conveniences and therefore she made up her mind to establish the foundation. Thus Tribal Connect was born which is now a registered, India-based, non-governmental, and non-profit organization. The motto is to help the aboriginal communities by addressing their problems of poor education, lack of basic infrastructure, absence of health facilities & helps to stabilize their income sources and structure.
She has initiated a lot of projects like Project Annapoorna, Project Wings, and Project Womb. The initiatives have helped thousands of tribal people with basics like food, clothes, and medical support during their extreme crises.
It was during one such project called Project Warmth that I got to know this warm personality. Project Warmth is a flagship initiative of Tribal Connect where they reach rural & tribal locations in India distributing warm blankets in the winter to the disadvantaged communities.
And while discussing the projects how can I not focus on her pet project Project Gyan. This is the name of the project that has resulted in the 146 Functional Learning Centers across the remotest indigenous regions in India. The purpose is to provide free education to the children of those regions. Tribal Connect has also collaborated their Project Annapoorna with the project Gyan as an empty stomach is not good for education. In that project, they provide three times free meals to the kids. Apart from that, they have community kitchens running under the project where the most vulnerable communities are fed absolutely for free ensuring that each child in these indigenous communities sleeps with a happy and full stomach. Like a true motherly figure, Ananya ensures an all-around nurturing of her kin.
The projects of Tribal Connect founded by Ananya work not only towards social upliftment but they take into consideration sustainability too. One such leading project of hers is the Project Womb which helps in providing clothes to the underprivileged kids who fall under the age group of 0 – 5 years. In this connection, they have reached out to the various textile industries and donors for extra waste or old clothes to recycle them and create new clothes. This zero-waste initiative supports compassion along with being sustainable.
While all the above-mentioned efforts are mostly benefitting the children of the region and rightly so as they are the future of the tribes, the others are not deprived of the benefaction of the noble venture.
Tribal Women and Tribal Connect
Like other social groups, tribal women have been facing problems related to reproductive health, economic backwardness, and education. Ananya P with her Tribal Connect runs various projects to help them. Project Lalli and Project Wings work towards the betterment of the menstrual health of tribal women. This includes the distribution of sanitary napkins among underprivileged women precisely the indigenous woman in Collaboration with Motherhood Club & Manas Wealth.
Rural Sustainable Livelihood Mission
While health and education are needs of the day without economic progress all these would mean nothing. So the organic next step that the efficient group undergoes is to make the population earn. The disadvantaged rural population is taught skills like soap making, handmade pieces of jewelry, weaving, candle making, cane basket making, and so forth & encouraged to work to stabilize their livelihood structures.
You can also help by buying and promoting local tribal handlooms.
As I got to know about the list of works of this special woman my simple mortal self kept wondering how Ananya and her Tribe manage all these. But, there is more to her endeavors. In a mission to update the oblivious world about the rich tribal heritage and culture, recently they have started publishing a magazine called Tribal Noise. This beautifully conceptualized magazine talks about the Tribals and their culture, history, and traditions.
The same is available for download here.
Currently, Ananya and her team are busy arranging resources for the coming monsoon in the hilly regions. She is being assisted by hundreds of volunteers. Though the rainy season might be some of our favorite seasons of the year, it is not very kind to the disadvantaged society. The remote areas often become unreachable and the supply of food and other daily needs gets a hit. While the Tribe under Ananya’s able leadership has already started preparing to give the adversities a tough fight, any help in their exertion is more than welcome.
You can contact them through their website or directly contact Ananya on the below details.
Note – This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.