When P Viji of Kozhikohode was named as one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2018, people cheered as a tailor turned social activist had managed to earn a spot in the prestigious list. However, the social activist didn’t even have a house of her own back then and only a few people knew this. Her family, which includes her teen children, have been moving from one rented home to another. Knowing this, Wings of Kerala, a Kozhikhode based registered organisation that is working for women and children then decided to build a house for Viji.

“No one was there to raise a voice for the women in the unorganised sector. I am happy that I have been selected by the BBC for the women’s list.” says Viji

Spearheaded Campaigns To Build Toilets For Women

“When a woman living on the streets has done so much work for the upliftment of others that she got listed by the BBC, we should at least do so much for her,” Deepa PM, chairperson of Wings of Kerala, told The News Minute. Viji has worked for an organisation named Penkootu, which fights for women’s rights. Her work was then recognised by the BBC. The activist has also spearheaded the campaigns that demanded toilets to be built on the streets for women. Another cause that she fought for was that the saleswomen to be allowed to sit for a while in between their work.

It was because of Viji’s four-year long effort that led the LDF government to amend the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act.

“All her work has been selfless. I have worked closely with her and understood it. She’d often get mementos for the work she does, but she’d leave them in one house or another, for she keeps shifting. When some of us got together and thought of what we could give her, we all agreed it has to be a house she could call her own. We had approached the Kozhikode Corporation about building a house for her. But they said she would need land of her own. So, we are now collecting money to buy her a piece of land. A message on our WhatsApp group has already brought a lot of contributions. But we still need more,” adds Deepa.

Viji’s Constant Efforts Led To Amendments In Kerala Shops And Commercial Establishments Act

It was because of Viji’s four-year long effort that led the LDF government to amend the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act. The amendment was made to provide proper working conditions for women and also provide them with proper arrangements to relax between their working hours, especially for the saleswomen and the ones working in textile companies.

Viji’s house has been built near Palazhi in Kozhikode since she needs to reside in Kozhikode itself for her work. “She is not all that well and there is so much work to do. She’d usually rejects charity. But when we said we are doing this, understanding her politics, she said she’d be happy to receive our gift,” Deepa adds.

Viji still does her tailoring work. She began her social work at the age of 22. Her association with the activist K Ajitha of Answeshi inspired her to raise her voice against the unaddressed issues of the women in the unorganised sector. “No one was there to raise a voice for the women in the unorganised sector. I am happy that I have been selected by the BBC for the women’s list.” Viji had said.

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