This is Uthayaruby Balakirusnan, aged 28, a mother of 1-year-old child in Iruttumadu village. Her’s is one of the families that suffer from extreme poverty in that area. She has been dumb from birth, and as such she was considered an outcaste by her fellow villagers and was excluded from any and all activities carried out by the village community. She used to be hesitant to talk with neighbours and relatives. In a word, it was as if she was isolated in her house. She recently also went through the trauma of losing her mother in an accident.
Balakirusnan, her 30-year-old husband, is an alcoholic. He sometimes goes to masonry labour work to earn a living, which does not suffice as most of his earnings go towards satisfying his alcoholism. Sometimes at certain nights the entire family has to fall asleep without food. Neighbours had known about her plight but they have not been willing to provide any support and have also not been in their mindset to even consider.
“Valli” is a Self-Help Group which was formed in the Iruttumadu on 11th June 2016 by gathering 18 marginalized women, through social mobilization and mentoring on the self-help approach by SLCDF. During the first meeting with the village people, she was not ready to join with the group and she was worried to even come out from her home because she was concerned about her handicap. The team did not allow her to be alone and tried hard to connect with her by using a sign language interpreter.
Eventually they made headway and got her to attend the meetings. At the start, she was silent in the group and did not save any money either, but observed how her group members behaved and engaged with each other well, following which she learnt a few words and started to communicate. Then, the members began to pay special attention towards her development and moving forward everyday, they taught her words to assist her to succeed in simple communication with others.
As a result of the SHG approach, she was fascinated and began saving money showing that she is taking steps towards starting her life. Even social structures changed and women who were not interested in the wellbeing of others have now begun to take an interest. They have begun understanding the fellow memebrs and sharing their burdens and being supportive towards each other.
Uthayaruby now says that by using some of the words that she learnt and with sign language that she has been able to communicate with her group effectively and are spending their time harmoniously. She is grateful that now she is able to learn a language that helps her to communicate well with the others and that she does not feel that she is all alone anymore. It is remarkable and has been so effective that she has saved Rs. 7500 LKR in the Valli SHG.