In the parable of the ‘Lost Sheep’, the Shepherd is very much disturbed when one sheep among the hundred is lost. The zeal (passion) for protecting the lost sheep from potential danger is in the Shepherd. He takes a track up hill and down dale, far into a desert, or into some dark wood, simply because the sheep has gone that way, and he must follow it until he finds it. It was with such state of mind St. Mary Euphrasia founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd to work for the emancipation of fallen women and girls needing protection from the temptation of the world. Good Shepherd Sisters are involved in religious and social development activities around the world. They are active in protecting children and women from potential abuse, fighting against prostitution, and human trafficking. In India, the Sisters are present in 8 States (Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu) and continue to work with various segments of the populations living in at risk circumstances.
I was born in Kadiyapatnam village (Kanyakumari District in Tamil Nadu, India), the third child in a family of 11 children, nurtured with values of humility, equality, compassion and mercy. With a profound sense of conviction and commitment to work for the liberation of the marginalized, especially women and children, I joined the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in 1983. Then I undertook 3 years intensive religious formation, completed Under Graduation at Madras University, 3 years formative course in Bangalore, later Post Graduation in Social Work at Loyola College, Chennai. For 6 years I worked in a leadership role with Postulants and Candidates. Then for 15 years I worked at the grass-root-level, initiating a number of activities that aimed at promoting the rights of the vulnerable, especially the dalit women and children living in at- risk circumstances.
We, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd at Mangalagiri (Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh state in India) along with lay Mission Partners and human rights activists in the region, adopting human rights approach, have been striving to address the current social issues such as the denial of child rights, child abuse, human trafficking, social discrimination of dalits, homelessness - involving the local people in every process of development.
All the development efforts of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Mangalagiri region are embedded in the true spirit of the Compassionate Shepherd, responding to the chaos of our times, embracing all, especially the marginalized individuals, groups and communities. Andhra Pradesh state is notorious for its poor literacy rates and high child labour rates, high incidence of human trafficking and violence on the low-caste people who are landless and asset-less hence exploited in various ways and means.
Each project is interconnected to each other; one complementing another and contributing towards the liberation of the people who are looked down upon and discriminated against.
‘Prevention of human trafficking’ in nine Mandals (regions) covering a population of 324,277 people who are poverty-stricken and vulnerable to human trafficking. At ‘Karunalayam’ (Temple of Mercy), Centre for ‘At Risk’ Girl Children rescued from various abusive circumstances, including human trafficking, services are provided in a family-like atmosphere with comprehensive rehabilitation services: supportive counselling, family reintegration, awareness-raising on child-trafficking. Also there is rehabilitation for those girls successfully rescued from the streets, which includes all-round care - food, clothing, shelter, formal education, vocational education - until they become independent.
Under Child Sponsorship, vulnerable children whose rights are in the verge of neglect are supported to meet their education, health and hygiene, nutrition, family and community needs in a systematic manner. In response to the ever-growing incidences of child abuse in Guntur District, the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India identified Good Shepherd Convent, Mangalagiri to work as a Collaborative organisation in Guntur District to manage the ‘CHILDLINE 1098’ services which is a 24hr free, emergency phone service for children in need of care and protection. Over the last seven years, scientific investigation in three Mandals helped us to identify the intensity of the issue of child labour and a comprehensive strategy was evolved to eliminate child labour. As of today we were successful in eliminating 2,357 out-of-school children from abusive working conditions and enabling them to get back to school. The community structures are adequately trained to monitor and prevent child rights violations. Human rights issues concerned with the dalits community, especially women, are attended to through human rights education and legal both outside and in court processing. Para-legal Workers are trained and deployed at the community-level to reach out to the vulnerable as well as to monitor human rights violations.
In order to bring about policy-level changes, I have been an instrument in initiating and strengthening of the Guntur District Forum for Child Rights (GDFCR) which now addresses the district-level issues with much confidence and make Guntur district a child-friendly district in the state. The homeless urban poor are identified and supported with technical and material support to construct house for themselves in order to lead a dignified human living.
I strongly believe that the new generation can build a world without slavery:
A world where everyone is treated equally
A world where those who coerce or deceive people into forced labour or steal other people’s freedoms are brought to justice
A world where everyone is included in the development
A world where everyone can walk free and
A world where each person’s rights are upheld.
There is so much of hope for all of us to dream together and go forward. We are energized by the Spirit to dream together for our mission which calls all of us to make known the values of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in search of the lost one.
In organizing a session, workshop or meeting, who do you look for to facilitate the event? This article may give you some good ideas....
Watch a compelling film produced by the Good Shepherd International Foundation featuring three Dalit women from a Good Shepherd Economic Justice Project
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
Sisters in India are working to prevent trafficking of women and children through changing community awareness and attitudes