“I want to remove illiteracy,” says a determined Jesu Mary. She is the sarpanch from Mychael Pattanam village in Tamil Nadu and is passionate about her goal because of her own experiences. As a child, her family experienced tough times financially. To tide over it, they sacrificed Jesu’s education and got her married at a very young age.
Today Jesu is 54 years old and has received several awards for her work in the area. And today her interests go far beyond illiteracy. These awards range from those for best panchayat president to rainwater harvesting efforts and much more. Even before she became a sarpanch, Jesu used to give middle aged men and women informal classes so that they would be able to read and write. Jesu now wants to encourage more women to come forward to assume positions of authority as well as “study as much as much as possible”.
When water problems used to plague her village, she resolved the issue to a large extent by adopting rainwater harvesting practices. Sanitation and open defecation continue to be problem areas. Jesu has increased awareness drives and ensured adequate waste baskets at every corner for easy disposal. The district collector has also sanctioned a bottled drinking water project proposal and work is underway.
Jesu has been the panchayat president since 1996 and feels that she has been able to make headway in improving conditions not only because of her efforts. The villagers have shown solidarity towards her and that has helped her achieve her goals.
Jesu owns a mobile phone which is only used for answering and making calls. She has a computer at home and in office and uses it mainly for office work. She feels technology increases efficiency and improves communication across boundaries. Armed with a deep passion and inspired by the vision of a better future, Jesu still has a long way to go in order to achieve all her dreams. But with her clear focus and keen determination, the journey ahead looks paved with opportunities.