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An Annan Story
‘Women – beasts of burden in the Kodai Hills’

Fr. Amulraj

As I reflect on the origins of Grihini, I am like a ‘periya annan’, an elder brother who helped facilitate the establishment of a program where all the animators are called ‘akka,’ elder sister. Two incidents moved me to join Jan Orrell in discussions that led to the formation of the Grihini program.

In October 1986, I discovered that among the bonded labourers in the logging camps of the Kodai Hills, the women were oppressed not only by their logging bosses but also by their husbands. The women worked about 18 hours a day and then took care of the children as well as the needs of their husbands who only worked about 10 hours per day. How could these women escape this cruel condition?

While travelling through these same Kodai Hills, on several occasions, I saw men burying the badly burned bodies of women. I discovered that these men had burned their wives because the men wanted a younger woman and a second dowry. The police turned a blind eye and gave a certificate that the death was natural. So many men, it seems, believe that they can use their wives as they would animals!

In my discussions with Jan Orrell, we asked how we might help these women find protection and liberation. How could we find a way to enable these women to possess the confidence and skills needed to free themselves of male domination? Crucial, it seemed to us, was a set period—say 6 months—away from men where these women were free to explore their potential.

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