Ruth Manorama – a profile

Ruth Manorama (62years in 2014) is born in Chennai to Christian parents.  Her mother is a first generation convert and an admirer of Ministry of Ramabai (1858 – 1922).  Manorama is the name of daughter of Ramabai.

In 1975 Manorama took a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Madras and has trained in both the community organization methods of Saul D’Alinsky and the conscientisation methods of Paolo Freire.  After her masters, she started working in Chennai slums through NGOs. She actively participated in rebuilding a slum submerged due to floods.

She shifted to Bangalore and started her association with Grail International Women’s Movement. Later she registered a trade union for domestic workers.   In 1986, Ruth participated in a cross-cultural study comparing Afro-American Blacks in the US and Dalits in India. Her specific interest was to study the lives of Black women and compare it to the situation of Dalit women. This was part of an agenda of declaring Jati of India as a form of racial discriminatory practice.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Manorama fought several court cases filed on behalf of slum dwellers evicted by slum clearance drive of Karnataka Government and sustained mass agitation of slum dwellers.

She coordinated the South India chapter of the preparations for the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. After returning to India from the UN Conference, the Advisory Group decided that ten regional members of the task force would come together as the National Alliance of Women (NAWO), with Ruth as president, to take the mobilisation of women forward.  In 2001 Manorama was granted an honorary doctorate “for the distinguished contribution made to church and society” by the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.  In 2006, She was awarded the  2 million kronor Right Livelihood Award  sharing with others two (equivalent to 60Lakh Rs).

 Ruth is married to N P Samy, the trade unionist who has brought together all independent, unorganized-sector trade unions under an apex body, the National Centre for Labor (NCL), of which Ruth is one of the secretaries, helping to build the organization. The couple has two daughters.

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