With a Masters in Social Anthropology from Cambridge, Lakshmi Krishnamurty has worked with communities, women and children for over 40 years. Beginning with village level studies in Tamil Nadu for Madras University (1960), evaluating the progress of the community as a whole, she has subsequently engineered or participated in surveys, projects and programmes related to women and children, on health, education, and empowerment.

There are as many yardsticks as there are people:
As Lakshmi has encountered in her work with the Central and State governments, including formal schools; government-sponsored organisations, like Mahila Samakhya (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka), and Lok Jumbish (Rajasthan); and Non-government organisations; Social Work and Research Centre, Tilonia, Rajasthan; Ankur, Katha, Delhi; and Disha, UP; among others. Lakshmi’s yardstick, in the creation of communication, training and evaluation materials, is therefore under constant scrutiny, subject to overhaul after overhaul.

Stories and incidents you recognise are the ones you remember:
Close associations as the co-founder and coordinator with Alarippu, an NGO established in 1983, has evolved for her the understanding that development should be a “fun” process, and using laughter and enjoyment is one of the most effective ways of building confidence and internalising concepts. Alarippu means “blossoming”, their methodology experiential, using theatre and related “active” communication methods. At Alarippu she was involved with offering training in creative education methods to pre and primary school teachers, education workers in NGOs, and teacher trainees from government schools.

Lakshmi has also interacted with CARE, India, publishing a series of reports and developing indigenous materials, including:

  1. Simple Nutrition Messages, published by Voluntary Health Association of India, 1976
  2. Nutrition Education in City Slums, Madras, India – A multi-media approach
  3. What Teachers Know – An Enquiry into Primary School Teachers’ Knowledge about Nutrition, Sanitation and Health Care

She has developed a workbook and flip chart on childcare, and a manual for Anganwadi workers for NIPCCD; papers on teacher training, school attendance and child labour for the ILO; evaluations of early childhood development programmes in Karnataka, and a wide variety of NGOs; explorations of how networks function, with specific reference to FORCES… And this is just a sampling of the breadth of experience Lakshmi has to share.

From the years of writing manuals and papers, Lakshmi leans on the oral tradition rather than the written one. It is her understanding that while manuals record, they also freeze, not allowing for evolving values and experiences.

Constantly evaluating your values, she believes, is the key.

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