In 2006, we executed ourTrust deed
and worked on getting Section 12AA
registration under the IT Act.
The PrajnyaTrustees met for the
first time on March 14, 2006, on
MSN Messenger which was and
remains what we can mostly afford!
The IT registration happened in January
but we got the notice a month later.
Six months of administrative prep work
followed and theTrust launched Prajnya
Initiatives on September 9, 2007, the
anniversary we celebrate today.
The vision for theTrust is very large,
painted on a canvas without borders.
The Initiatives are one part, the doing
part or if you like, the NGO part of the
• We designed our logo, set up a bank account and website.
• We made our first friends in Chennai’s social sector: PCVC.
• Our first volunteers found us: Jayalakshmi, Nandhini and Sweta joined
Uma andAnupama Shekhar, whom I had already roped in.
• The idea of doing the 16 Days of Activism took root.
• We had our first Oral History training session.
• We decided to hold an IntercollegiateQuiz onWomen in South Asia
onWomen’s Day 2008.
• 2007 was a year of meeting, greeting, asking, learning--which in fact,
In 2008, we also got our first (and only) grant:The Sir RatanTataTrust
gave us a small grant to do pre-launch research for the Education for
Peace Initiative.Three short studies were published in 2008-09, the last of
which defined how we would approach this work.
● Akila R., Mapping Educational Policy Structures and Processes in
● Anupama Srinivasan,A Survey of Civil Society Peace Educational
Programmes in South Asia
● Priyadarshini Rajagopalan, FromAgenda to Action: Interpreting and
Implementing the NCF Peace Education Guidelines.
GynelleAlves responded to a
Facebook request for design help and
made this logo for the Education for
Quiz on Women
in South Asia,
won by the
The first Prajnya
16 Days Campaign
Logo specially designed
for us by Deepak
Harichandan; can’t now
imagine the campaign
• We held the first quiz and launched our first blog on the day:
“keepingcount,” because we intended mainly to be researchers on
women’s participation in public life!
• We got our first summer research interns, who researched and wrote our
first women’s history projects.
• Sweta researched and compiled a directory of Chennai women’s
organisations, through which we made other friends.
• We had the first Campaign--but along with that, hired our first full-time
person--although just for three months.
• We also got our 80G exemption status!
The firstWomen’s History Roundtable series was launched in March 2009.Two
series, four seasons of sessions were held before the series halted.
Dr. K. Srilata was our first speaker.
In 2009, women’s history was still at the
core of our gender equality work.
Summer interns worked on women’s
history and women in politics projects.
And in November 2009, we did our first
The PrajnyaArchives went live
on September 28, 2009.
The Archives are a
user‐generated repository of
visuals that can be used for
writing much needed histories
of South Asian women who
have been active in the public
sphere over the last century.
Since 2009, we have received
contributions via the website
and through photo-calls issued
from time to time.
“We are really excited to be finally doing this.
LifeStories is one of our dream projects, and while
we still don’t have any funding for it, we are
getting started using our personal resources
because we cannot wait any more.” (PSWWeblog)
“For us, it was long held dream come true to begin
this oral history project. And the first one only
whetted our appetite.To many more such
wonderful memories as we continue with this
The first edition of the GenderViolence in India report was
published in 2009.Three journalist friends volunteered to
write sections of the report.
The GVR was intended to be a ready-reckoner for
mediapersons or anyone who quickly needed to access
definitions, numbers or other information.There have been
three editions of the GVR since.
The GVR cover was also designed by GynelleAlves.
In 2009, we prepared a listing
of Chennai distress helplines,
“Call for Help,” for the first time.
This has been verified and updated
every year, since.
We were part of theThird SamsungWomen’s
International Film Festival, organising a screening
and discussion called, “RealWomen, Reel Lives” on
biography, history and cinematic representation.
We also acquired a new flyer and we have
retained the design ever since!
The Prajnya 16 Days Campaign partnered
with Chennai Police for the first time and
also ventured to discuss digital security
The ‘campaign sabbatical’ entered the
Prajnya calendar for the first time, as we
decided to take 2011 off from planning the
campaign--to take stock, to recharge and to
pay attention to other parts of Prajnya.
The PrajnyaArchives launched its first thematic call for
photos: Rainmakers, or resourceful women.
We received almost a hundred entries from around South
Asia, about 40 of which went into an exhibition, that was
shown. Rainmakers had a jury from different parts of South
Asia, something we are proud of.They selected the
following photos as most representative of the theme.
Making Numbers Count:
September 16, 2011: Our first full-day
seminar on the challenges of data
collection around gender violence.
“The lack of accurate, accessible, updated and relevant data on gender violence
remains a real stumbling block for the many non-profit organisations and
governments that grapple with this issue.Why is it so important to have this data, to
understand it and to use it properly? Given that gender and sexual violence get little
attention, numbers become essential for ‘flag-waving’, for holding up as evidence,
proof, to backup anecdotal evidence. Most of all, good data conveys the urgency of
the problem in ways that nothing else can.” (From the seminar report).
For the 2010 16 Days Campaign, UmaVangal
had drafted ‘Screening with Sensitivity,’ aTV
A 2015 revision of the guide was adopted by
the BroadcastingContent Complaints
Council as a resource in its training and
consultations with networks.
In 2011, we joined again with the InKo Film
Festival to organise a gender sensitisation
and scriptwriting workshop, “Writing
Gender,Talking Ideas,” where film-makers
led a two-day workshop for screenwriters
who then submitted scripts.Two scripts were
selected for further discussion at a
consultation over coffee.
Starting in 2011, Prajnya hosted Hollaback! Chennai for four years.
Hamsini Ravi and Shakthi Manickavasagam anchored the work at
2012 was also important to the
Prajnya Resource Centre on
Women in Politics and Policy--
which is the home for all our
women’s history and women in
politics projects--for two other
First, we started a short-lived
collaboration with the ‘Writing
Caste’ blog project to document as
history how caste and gender rules
intersect in people’s lives.
Second, we started a blog feature
called ‘The History Room’ featuring
interviews with feminist historians.
On International Day of Peace, 2012, we held Kriti,
our first peace education training for teachers. It
“our attempt to begin the conversation of Peace
with some educators in the city and to encourage
them to implement some of the NCF guidelines for
peace education that lie dormant within the 2005
Other Peace Education projects had to be set aside in 2002 for
Peace, the most urgent need of our times, has consistently had sit on
the back-burner for lack of resources.
The 2012 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against
GenderViolence had 9 public events!
We did our first video series, Chennai men
say NO! to gender violence, for the
campaign featuring well-known men from
We crowd-sourced poetry and produced
poetry chapbooks that were shared at the
Campaign Poetry Reading.
We began doing ‘Community Cafes’ at the
2012 campaign and discussing bystander
AND… we celebrated our fifth birthday in
style, with cake and a gathering of friends!
And we wrote down what we wished for
“Why are so few roads named after women?”
This question led us to “The Roads Project” undertaken by ArchanaVenkatesh
with KanchanaVenkatesh.They “looked for roads (and Nagars) that were named
after women – REAL women, not goddesses – and did some research on who
they were, their stories, their lives, and the contributions they made to Madras or
In 2012, we also began one of our most
significant awareness activities: an annual
engagement to sensitise the graduating
students of MOPVaishnavCollege forWomen
on gender violence. Our interactive sessions
last 2-3 hours and cover gender violence in
general, then focusing on workplace sexual
harassment, street sexual harassment and
This is done as part of MOPVaishnavCollege’s
own ‘finishing school’ programme.
Over six years, if you consider that at least
1000 students graduate from the college
annually, that makes about 6000 sensitised
young women, who are better prepared for
the ubiquitous challenge of violence.
In February 2013, we organised the
“Our Lives… to Live” Film Festival in
partnership with International
Association ofWomen in Radio &
Television India and hosted by
Goethe‐InstitutChennai. In addition
to film-screenings, we organised
● Gender, Sexuality and
Violence, featuring Revathi
Vasudevan and L
Ramakrishnan as moderator
featuring Geeta Ramaseshan,
Anita Ratnam andTishani
Doshi as moderator.
In March 2013, we organisedTrailblazers:
A "discovery of Madras" history
Participants were expected to follow a
series of clues around the city ‐ with a
twist: all the clues led to landmarks
related to women who are (or have been)
in the public sphere in Madras.
The 2013 Prajnya 16 Days
Violence made a conscious effort
to spotlight heteronormativity as
a form of gender violence.
A day-long discussion on
masculinity signaled the
importance of including men,
and people of all genders, in the
work to end violence.
We made our first video-resource
(thanks to volunteers Jyothi and
Ramesh), a film on disability,
gender violence and law, featuring
Amba Salelkar and Smitha
Sadasivam in conversation.
“Do you know who the first woman in
your family to graduate from a
The PrajnyaArchives call for photos with
stories,The First Graduate, got a
tremendous response from around the
region, and we realised anew how rare
access to education still is for women.
In association with PCVC and the
Government Hospital (GH), we organised
domestic violence sensitisation sessions
for nurses.This followed up on a 2013
campaign training session.
“All I want is a room somewhere…”
In May 2014, Dr. Jayashree and Dr.
Desikacharulu generously invited us to
use a room in their hospital as our office,
and we have been there ever since.
Apart from giving us a space to sit and
store our growing baggage, this has also
given us a space for meetings, for
celebrations and even training sessions.
In Prajnya-style, the room was furnished
with donations by volunteers who got
together to set up and decorate the
space.With our own Rainmakers photos
In September 2014, the Prajnya
community sat down to have a very
difficult but important conversation:To
stay open or to shut down.
Unending financial crises and a human
resource base that has not grown much
since the beginning were and remain
We decided to take a call in six months but
what we did with the six months made the
decision to stay on course inevitable--we
maxed out our dreams, so to speak, doing
every single thing we ever wanted.
Through this year of churning,
partners and friends reinforced
the value of our presence
independently, by reaching out
to work with us.
Once the decision was made,
we heard that FICCI Ladies’
Organisation was going to
recognise our work! Another
small positive reinforcement at
a dark time!
Saakshi Fellow Dr. Linda Racioppi’s research
project on post-disaster gender politics has
placed gender and disasters firmly on
In 2014, ahead of the tenth anniversary of
the 2004AsianTsunami, we did two special
In November 2014, along with Oxfam India and
the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, we
did a training for mediapersons on gender
sensitivity and gender issues in disaster
In December 2014, along with the All India
Disaster Mitigation Institute and Swayam
Shikshan Prayog, we were part of a briefing at
theTamil Nadu State PlanningCommission
whose papers were published as a booklet.
The 2014 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign againstGenderViolence broke with
previous formats by returning agency to individuals. 17 individuals,
designated Gender Equality Mobilisers (G.E.M.s), took on the responsibility
for organising gender violence awareness activities in their circles, social or
professional.We reached a wider cross-section of people through the 17
individuals than we otherwise might have.
Devasena E.S.; Preeti Aghalayam;
Pravin Shekar; Sudha Raja;
Padmini Subramaniam; Sudha Umashanker;
Nanditha Prabhu; Khushbu Sundar;
Kavitha Muralidharan; Ramya Kannan;
Zubeda Hamid; Dhamayanthi;
SriramAyer; N. Shekar;
Jayanthi Karthikeyan; Indu Balachandran;
Rinku Suri Mecheri
“The lesson reinforced here is that every single thing we do matters.You
don't need institutions or organisations; you don't need hundreds of
thousands of rupees; you don't need a weekend supplement feature.You
just need to decide that something matters enough to you to take action.”
• We hosted a discussion around Dr. Srimati Basu’s work on 498A and
men’s rights movements.
• We organised a a meeting on gender, sexuality and the Internet with
Point ofView, Mumbai.
• We piloted safety audits around Chennai with the Safetipin app.
In January 2015, we published a directory
of organisations in South Asia that work
for both women’s rights and peace.This
was compiled on the basis of desk
research byVignesh Rajendran and edited
by Mitha Nandagopalan.
A consolidated regional edition as well as
country editions are available online.
PrajnyaArchives launched a call for
photos and stories of women’s leadership
that met with a lukewarm response,
reminding us of the work that remains in
giving women confidence about
themselves. We ran a similar call in 2017
with similar results, reinforcing this
In September 2015, we were able to hire our first full-time team member, a
Programme Officer for the GenderViolence Research and Information
Having Ragamalika on board full time opened up possibilities that we had
simply disregarded, as she took care of both GRIT and non-GRIT work
We have now had a full-time person for two years and seen a team transition as
The year opened and closed with poetry
(and spoken word).
‘ShortTakes,’ “power-packed talks by
Prajnya,” in its first edition addressed
the challenge of sexism in the media.
During the 2016 16 DaysCampaign, we
used the format to start a discussion on
gender violence and literature.
InApril, we organised a
“Walk for Gender Equality.”
Prajnya’s first book!
A co-edited volume by
Saakshi Fellow Dr. Linda
Racioppi and Dr. Swarna
In 2016, we participated in Daan
Utsav for the first time.
Despite every kind of catastrophe and months of disruption thereafter,
the 2016 Prajnya 16 DaysCampaign will be remembered as one of the most
creative we’ve had.
We have launched two new projects:
1. MenTalk Consent:Group discussions, training and research activities
in collaboration with Dr. Sharada Srinivasan.
2. Namathu Nagaram Namathu Urimai: Rights education and
citizenship practice in partnership with Roshni and CWDR.
Through this year, every part of Prajnya will celebrate the tenth birthday
both with an event and with an activity that builds capacity and/or scale,
and deepens engagement with the community.
An AcrosticTo Sum Up Our Journey
Persistent and focused as ants on a mission,
Reaching out, on the tips of our toes, at the edge, to nudge the bar
Always willing to try, unafraid to fail, ever-ready to learn,
Jealously holding onto every precious dream, impossible as it may
Never at a loss for new ideas or ways to complicate old ones
Yearning for the break that will give us enough to grow and do more,
Adamant still, that we will be true to our vision, come what may, come
To those who have walked with us so far
and to those who are joining us here…
It’s been an amazing journey, but we do realise…
We have promises to keep
And miles to go before we sleep….