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11 October is International Girl Child Day. In our monthly campaign #CelebratingGirlPower, we bring to you stories of women with disabilities who have fought odds to mark their place in society. Today, we feature Priya Ramakrishnan, founder of Janani Educational and Cultural Charitable Society in Kerala.
‘The path to success is to take massive, determined action’, said author Tony Robbins and it holds so true for 45-year-old Priya Ramakrishnan. Diagnosed with a loco motor disability due to an accident, Priya has dedicated her life to empowering and celebrating women. Her organization Janani Educational and Cultural Charitable Society formed at Palakkad in Kerala aims to do just that. Priya talks to Newz Hook about what prompted her to become active in social work.

Early years
Priya was born and raised at Palakkad. In the year 1993, while pursuing her pre-degree, Priya met with an accident. She was trying to get into a bus when it sped off leaving Priya on the road with a lifelong injury. She was diagnosed with a loco motor disability. Priya was bed-ridden for months and was unable to move out of the bed. Those who came to visit her had words of sympathy which angered her more.

CelebratingGirlPower- Priya Ramakrishnan has dedicated her life to empowering women

I cannot express the sadness that I experienced during those days. I was a sportsperson and very active in social work too. People around me, including my own parents started looking at me as a burden. Since we had financial constraints, it added to the woes. Soon I realized that I cannot afford to just stay inside my room all the while. I decided to step out. In the start, I had difficulties to walk, but then I gradually picked up. I started doing everything independently- Priya Ramakrishnan.
After a slow recovery, Priya completed her studies and did a post-graduation too.

Proud founder of Janani
From school days, Priya was an active member of National Service Scheme (NSS) and used to reach out to many people in need. In 2001, she became part of government initiated ‘Kudumbasree’ in Palakkad and worked on projects to empower womenfolk in and around the district. But gradually Priya realized that in order for her ideas to take off, she needed to start something on her own. So in 2001, she started Janani with the help of a few kind souls. The organization was registered as a society in the year 2003.
“Development through education is our prime motto. There are many women who need help and I wanted to reach out to them so that they can stand on their own feet”, says Priya.
The womenfolk at Janani are given vocational training in computers, making of paper pens, jute bags and so on. They also offer beautician courses. Over 3000 women with and without disabilities have benefitted from their programs.

The path ahead
“I’am satisfied with what I have done till date. But what bothers me are the financial constraints. We had to move out of office to my home”, says Priya.
Needless to say, Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has affected Janani’s work. Priya says that her organization has incurred huge losses already. The products made by their members remain unsold.
Priya who is a national award and state award winner in the year 2006 is not ready to back down. She has also won the Nehru Yuva Kendra award in 2010. Priya is also an archery champion who aspires to participate in the para Olympics.
“It is important to know what you are. Always understand that you are on your own so that you do not feel sad and depressed. You can overcome any hard times with self-confidence”, says Priya.