I was born in a village called Manikkadave in the northern part of Kerala as the 5th child in the family of 8 children. I am grateful and happy to God for giving me a loving and caring atmosphere to grow up with my affectionate parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Their simple and strong faith in God, devotion, respect, sharing and good deeds have inspired me and moulded me to be who I am today.
From my childhood days I had a strong desire to be a missionary. I used to read and listen to the life stories of Religious, dedicated women and men. I also have my uncles, aunts, and cousins as priests and sisters. I love adventures, loved from adolescent days to search for something different in life. So after my pre-university studies, I discerned, prayed over and chose to join the Good Shepherd Sisters. Before choosing this congregation, I used to collect all the details of various congregations from a weekly devotional magazine called ‘Sathya deepam’. Among all, I was touched by the vocation invitation by the Good Shepherd Sisters as it was written ‘We look for the lost, God calls you to be a hope for the women and girls who are groping in darkness, rejected by the families and the societies….. Will you answer to the call of Jesus the Good Shepherd…?’. This invitation attracted me and I chose this Congregation.
I am happy as a few years ago I completed 25 years of my life as a religious trying to live responding to the call of Jesus the Good Shepherd. I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunities to live and struggle with the people who are oppressed, violated of their rights and who are at the margins in various ways. These 25 years I had chances to work in the rural areas with community development programs, in the urban setups with women and children in crisis in a short stay home, and with adult women in a hostel as well as in the administration of the Province activities.
Now I am placed in a sponsorship program where we coordinate the province sponsorship projects. Through these we reach out to the children who are deprived of education and also the families with other income generating and community development activities. I also have the experience of networking with other likeminded groups and the government, as well as province contact person for Justice and Peace Commission to the congregation.
It was a unique experience in working with the government through Jagradha Samithi which means vigilance cell. We were a statutory body to settle the grievances related to women, children and families. In a way this means settling the matters outside the courts. Now being a Juvenile Justice Board Member, I am learning a lot in my understanding of children in conflict with law and always it is my concern how to take care in the particular issue which varies from child to child based on the best interest of the child. We need to reach out to the child, to their parents as per their unique situations and problems. It is really challenging. I too struggle with them; I am restless until they are settled.
As I look at my life today, I can confidently say that the spirit of Jesus the Good Shepherd sustains me, strengthens me and His grace alone is leading me and directing my heart to reach out to the people who are searching for someone in their helplessness and confusion to show them the road to hopefulness and life.
Involvement with children in conflict with the law. The movement for recognition of the rights of children is catching up as violence and abuse of children are on the increase nationally and globally. We need to approach the entire issue of child rights with a positive frame of mind.
Child protection is about protecting children from or against any perceived or real danger or risk to their life, their personhood and childhood. It is about reducing their vulnerability to any kind of harm. It is about ensuring that no child falls out of the social security and safety net and, those who do, receive necessary care and protection. The failure to protect children has serious consequences for their physical, mental, emotional and social development, with consequences of loss in productivity and quality of human capital for the nation.
The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Department, Government of India, takes care of the children in conflict with the law through Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). In India every District has one Board established to take care of the children in conflict with the law. Juveniles accused of a crime or detained for a crime are brought before the JJB under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (amended in 2006). Under this act and provisions of the Criminal Code Procedure children are not to be taken to a regular criminal court. The purpose of a separate court is socio-legal rehabilitation and reformation not punishment. The aim is to hold a child culpable for their criminal activity, not through punishment, but counselling the children to understand their actions and persuade them away from criminal activities in the future.
The JJB consists of a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class and two social workers, at least one of whom should be a woman. All three people form a bench that is to function as a unit. When a child has been found guilty of a crime the social workers are vital to deciding the best course of action for the rehabilitation of that child.
I am happy to share my experience of being a member of the JJB in Bangalore Rural. It is an opportunity given to me to help out the children and their families to help them to restore unity, reconciliation and attitudinal changes. Our interventions in these children’s lives make them feel that they are wanted, loved and cared for. It is a platform given to us to influence the policy makers; also we have a great role to ensure justice to the victims and accompany them to a bright future.
We also have the responsibility to see that the police and those who come on the way of these children behave well with the children.
‘We commit ourselves to work zealously with women and children especially those who are trafficked, forced to migrate or oppressed by abject poverty.’ This Congregational statement keeps ringing in my ears and heart.
Comprehensive overview from the GSAPP team - how Good Shepherd Partnership for Mission is developing in this region
In Nagpur India, Sisters from two provinces gather to lay the foundation stone for the Provincialate building, and to bury a time capsule