Gudalur Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the Nilgiris District.These Hills and the forests have been home to over 30000 Adivasis of this area for centuries. The forests spread over the three southern States of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka were the natural habitat for the adivasis till recently.
The most defining moment of the Gudalur movement has been the Land Rights Campaign of the adivasis. People who had been silently suffering the injustice perpetrated on them by outsiders decided that enough is enough. The conclusion of the campaign was the massive demonstration held at Gudalur. On 5th December 1988. AMS was born on that day. It is celebrated as Adivasi Day every year by the AMS members.
The Genesis of our work lies in the numerous village meetings conducted in the initial years The AMS Acitivists called Animators went from village to village, talked to the youth and motivated them to organise themselves and stand-up for their just rights. Village after village formed Sangams. The power of Unity was realised by the Adivasi community.
Animators play crucial role in Adivasi Munnetra Sangam. These adivasi youth were instrumental in bringing adivasis into the streets and in changing their fear. Painstakingly they strove to change the mindset of the adivasis and gave them courage to be assertive. From asserting their political rights to changing the conditions of the adivasi community, the Animators play a pivotal role. Even today !
The intervention on the Health situation of Adivasis started with the training of tribal women as Health Workers. Tribal women, who were till the other day, considered only as manual workers, suddenly became the key resource persons. Women who can diagnose illnesses, who can give medicines and assist in times crisis like deliveries. These Bettakurumba women were one of the first batch of HWs.
Doctors and the health staff visited the adivasi villages regularly - often situated at the midst of forests. People who were non-existent in the records of Government came forward to be part of the Health intervention and actively cooperated.
Today, Health Animators are the first level of interaction for the adivasi villages. The Community Health Programme rests on the shoulders of the Health Animators.They visit all the villages regularly and keep a tab on the health status of the adivasis - particularly that of the pregnant women and children.
Preventive Care is at the core of the Community Health Programme. The main role of the Health Animators and the Sub-Centres is in giving the health knowledge to the adivasi families - particularly to the women and children. Health Education Sessions like this are routine during the village visits of the Health Animators.
The health problems of the adivasis are directly linked to the alination of their land and poor economic conditions. People who once had enough to feed the entire family were left to depend on subsidies from Government. Health Animators however play a significant role in bringing nutrition back into the agenda. Like this Health Animator, who is teaching the women to make nutritious porridge for the children.
Even while the Government continued to claim that Adivasis do not come to the hospitals and that they are superstitious etc., Gudalur Adivasi Hospital was born due to the insistence of the Adivasi leaders to have a Hospital of their own. This 20 bedded Hospital functions as the First Referral Unit of the health programme and is utilised by more than 20000 adivasis - like this Paniya mother and child.