Original MOV File
Humanitarian response, Health
Advocacy, Disease, Volunteer
13 August 20
Every super-hero has a story to what made them so. Ms.Karunya Devi. N is one such real-life hero. 39-year-old born and brought up in Chennai lead a simple life. She completed her schooling at St.Annes Govt Hr.Sec.School, Broadway. One could say, Ms.Karunya didn’t choose this field, but this field chose her. Someone with her dedication, her vision for the people, her impulse to take charge and bring a change, is what every society needs! Her journey to fight for humanity started at a young age when she was taken for her school field visit on Human Rights, to Stanely Govt. Hospital. One of the women there was abandoned by her family and newlywed husband because she had lost both her legs. By witnessing this, it hit her deeply that, love and compassion weren’t been given freely. Many people have been abandoned by their own kin and blood, let alone the society due to their “unfit” nature. In a world that lacked the love, respect and compassion for another human being, it was then shedecided to begin her journey to restore the missing pieces.
Her on-field journey had begun not very long after when she had joined the Department of Social Work for her Master’s Degree in the year 2003 in Stella Maris College for Women, Chennai. As a part of her fieldwork exercise, during her rural placement at Vengathur-Thiruvallur Dt, she wanted to help a girl to restore her eyesight; which could not happen due to the financial complications. She helped her get a fake eye and restored her dignity. Karunya is now a passionate Social worker and Lawyer. She has been practicing Law in Chennai High Court since 2016 . Her career expands to different fields and she is driven by her heart and values. She is also a philanthropist, an Advocate, a Social Worker, Activist and also a Business Development Manager. She worked as an IEC Officer-TB Control Programme (RNTCP) in the State Health Society, Government of Tamil Nadu. Recognizing her contribution, she was invited to be a part of the World Bank Project under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi.
She has always been on foot, at places, with marginalized people, who are still fighting just for their mere survival. During the floods in 2015, she was interviewed by NDTV for spearheading the issues of malpractice at a burial ground in Semmencherri. Through her committed and instant intervention, a poor woman’s body was cremated and her two daughters were taken in by Ms Karunya and educated at Stella Maris College. As a mother, she envisions for her child and all the children out there, to have access to a safe, secure and empowering environment. For that, undefeated, she continues her journey in the fight for the justice of women, children and adolescents.
She meet twin siblings who suffered with muscular dystrophy from Semmencherri, They wanted to participate in ‘Nijangal event’, a reality TV show. She helped them take part in the show, she recalls, “to see the smile on their faces is everything I wanted.’’
Later one of the twins passed away after this incident.
During the Kerala Flood, she solely reached out to the people at Wayanad by providing flood relief kits.
Over the years, she has voiced her opinion for environmental rights, health rights, women's empowerment, safety and security for children. She has also been invited as a guest lecturer to many Universities and Colleges to present her views and insights on Human Rights. Some students have had the opportunity to be mentored under her guidance. She is an invincible warrior for the welfare and restoring of Humanity. Aware, yet oblivious to the well-being of her own health, she pursued to work for the needs of the many.
“I’ve been through the worst disasters and conducted many disaster relief outreach programs, but, I have never experienced anything like what I have for the past few months” she expressed about the COVID 19 Crisis.
She is one of our front-line warriors during this pandemic. She worked as the Project Manager for C-DOT (Community Development Organization Trust) to identify families in distress and provide support. As a lawyer, she has handled at least 12 divorce cases due to domestic violence during COVID 19. She has helped her neighbour who was denied an E-Pass to commute back to her village to attend her mother’s funeral. She had been mentioned in the newspaper for her contribution in this procedure as she had taken it directly to the authorities. She is also working for the ‘My Scholar Program’ of HCL Foundation through Pravah; where she is in regular contact with the scholars to keep a check on their mental health state during this pandemic. She has been working as a Project Manager of Community Intervention Programme for which C-DOT is the implementing agency. In this she is doing the on-field work that includes conducting Awareness Programs on COVID 19, Medical Camps and Ration Distributions.
She has to be present at the Corporation Office for the roll-call at 7:30 am every morning. Her breakfast and lunch are packed and provided by the Corporation itself, but they are not given any plates or spoons to eat with. There is no proper access to clean and hygienic toilets in the Corporation Office, which personally she struggled with during her menstrual cycles. Besides these challenges, working for the Greater Chennai Corporation during this pandemic, where there is a lack of staff, due to the fear for one’s own safety, thus, refusing to participate in the fieldwork. The work requires them to go door to door involving hours together in the field. All the workers, especially women, are forced to wait until they get home to use the restrooms after the days’ work. Dreading the spread of the virus, they are not welcomed into anyone’s homes even in case of emergencies unless they know the workers personally. But the concerns don’t stop there.
It is not only the public that dreads the spread of the virus, but also Karunya’s family. In fear of her health and life, her husband doesn’t appreciate her working directly in the field. “My husband fears for my health and asks me to stay home, but, there are doctors, police officers, social workers, health workers and many more fighting the virus every day, leaving behind their families. Without this effort and sacrifice, our society wouldn’t survive this pandemic.’’ she said. Her husband is at his native place and isn’t aware of her on-field work for the Corporation through C-DOT. The only on-field work that he knows of, which Karunya has done is when she helped her neighbor at the initial lockdown period for getting an e-pass to commute back to her village to attend her mother’s funeral. She had directly gone to the Corporation for this purpose which was mentioned in the Newspaper. Her husband is also only aware that she has been working for CDOT in the distribution of 2400 ration kits in red alert areas like Royapuram, Tondiarpet and R K Puram without directly going to field. He is also only aware that she is working from home for HCL My Scholar Project through Pravah.
“I carry this guilt with me every day when I wake up every morning going to work, knowing my husband neither approves of it nor knows about it.” she said.
One of the twins is getting married next month, and for that, she has got her husband’s acknowledgement. She shares how challenging it is to manage her family and her profession, unable to prioritize one from the two. As a humanitarian worker, the society needs her and as a Mother and Wife, her family needs her too. At the end of every day, going back home to her family, praying that she isn’t infected by the virus and won’t spread it to them is a daily mental struggle. There are moments where she wants to stop for the sake of her own child. Because, if she was infected by COVID 19, and that costed her, her life; the thought of leaving behind her daughter, haunts her. But, she decided to continue, risking her and going against her family, so that, this pandemic will be less tough in the lives of many others.
“The constant fear of my safety and survival has become a part of me and, I continue even otherwise, because, if not me and the many of like us reaching out, there are families who will not have one one to help them during this crisis,” she said.
She has struggled with the physical, emotional and mental pain; but her determination continues to keep her standing strong. She has dedicated her whole life, sweating day in and day out in the belief that this is her calling. “Nothing can stop me,” she said. And till date, nothing has stopped her from doing what she does. She believes, to make our world a better place, every person alive, needs to take the responsibility to cherish the gift of life by showing respect and love to humanity.