Mumbai: Her quest for empowering the underprivileged, especially the women, landed her into activism after she crossed 50 years of her age. Now, the woman, who has given confidence to tribal women living in jungles of Aarey Colony, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) is a known face amongst the tribal communities, particularly the women, who consider Cassandra Nazareth (56) as their angel.
Cassandra, the trustee of Nazareth foundation that works for the tribals living in urban areas, brought the otherwise neglected Warli communities in the main picture and continues to help the women of these communities to become financially independent.
As per Cassandra, she first stepped in Aarey forest in 2016 wherein she met women living in worst conditions. "I remember these women did not even looked up while speaking to me for the first time. But now, all of them speak with a good eye-to-eye contact and I can bet many of them have become good orators and can speak spontaneously even on a stage," Cassandra, who was declared as the "change maker" in 2019.
"Our core expertise is in entrepreneurship training for women. We apply a holistic approach when dealing with the communities we work with. We want to make women more confident and independent and over the years, I have seen the change among thousands of them," she adds.
Cassandra has helped tribal women to become financially independent by introducing the "Tribal Lunch, Tribal Tadka and A day with Warli community and Made in Aarey" initiatives.
"The tribal lunch program is wherein Mumbaikars on their visit to the forest area, are served with the delicacies prepared by these women. Apart from this, citizens are also given a close glimpse of recipes etc," Cassandra said.
The Tribal Tadka is an initiative which allows Warli women to sell their handmade items to the visitors. "They sell their handmade spices, veggies that they grow to visitors. Sometimes, we even channel the sale through word of mouth promotion for orders. And I am happy the response has been great and these women are now confident and independent," Cassandra said.
"Apart from this, Warli paintings on bags, clothes and other items are sold by these women. These paintings are done by them alone. We try to reach out to as many people to sell these items," she added.
The NGO is also providing for various health camps, sanitation programs apart from fighting for the Aarey land.