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Dr. Jaya Arunachalam


Dr. Jaya Arunachalam. Image credit: Deccan Chronicle



Dr. Jaya Arunachalam, Founder of the Working Women’s Forum (WWF) and the Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), fondly known as ‘Amma’ (mother), passed away on June 29.


Dr. Arunachalam, a stalwart of the cooperative movement in India dedicated her life to uplifting millions of women out of poverty. She believed in leadership that cut across social identities and ensured women were equal stakeholders at work and home and had a say in determining their future. She created a large network of micro finance units in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.


Dr. Jaya Arunachalam was conferred the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, by the Government of India in 1987. She received the 'Stree Shakthi Puraskar' from the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2002 and the Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 2009 for her work towards the welfare of women and children. She received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lueneburg (Germany) in 1999; the International Activist Award by the Glietsman Foundation, USA in 2003; the Global Leadership for Economic Development by Vital Voices, USA in 2005; and the 12th Mandavelli Award from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2006. In 2008, Dr. Arunachalam joined former U.S. President Bill Clinton for a two-day meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative Asia Meet, Hong Kong to share the inspiring work undertaken by WWF and ICNW. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited WWF during her visit to India in July 2011.


ICA President Ariel Guarco expressing his condolences to Dr. Nandini Azad (Dr. Arunachalam's daughter and Chairperson of the ICA-AP Committee on Women), said, "On behalf of ICA, I would like to offer your family and all the Indian worker cooperative women our sincere condolences. Dr. Arunachalam, a pioneer of the women's Self-Help Group movement helped the cooperative movement's development and contributed significantly to the advancement and empowerment of women in India and beyond.