June 6, 2023

Ananya Paul Dodmani says – Raise kids with stronger voices and kinder hearts

Meet Ananya Paul Dodmani is a tribal rights activist, sustainable menstrual warrior, a mom and so many roles that she plays in life that she has won accolades, awards, recognition badges and is a true multi-tasker. She also runs over 147 Learning Community centres, offering free education and meals to the children residing at the centres.

Talking to Mums and Stories, Ananya shares, “ I was born and brought up in a small tribal town in Assam, and the indigenous life always appealed me. A  simple quiet childhood suddenly changed with a realization one day that the people in my region are always exploited because we don’t have appropriate  accessibility to better things in life.

I started getting & teaching young indigenous kids from the neighbourhood after school since I was an 8th grader. A basic maths, a little knowledge on language – that’s all I taught them believing that would change their life.

Gradually I realized such baby steps won’t help much and began collaborating with other organizations , student bodies in college to create a bigger impact and curate more sustainable projects. I started advocating the indigenous rights & here I’m today standing and believing that forest is my home & I owe everything that I’m today to these forest dwellers.

Certain incidents have only amplified my belief that there is no substitute to education.  If you have better accessibility to education, you learn better, you have a better livelihood options., I built my first Learning Center in the same village from where my Baba was taken away yes kidnapped and thankfully he came back too. It was difficult, nobody thought I could even manage it, forest they said is not a place for a woman to work, I pulled all that I had & made it functional & cut to 2022 I run 147 Learning & Community Centers across different indigenous regions across India, all for free.

Ananya Dodmani at one of the Learning centres.

I would lie if I say the incident of my Baba’s kidnapping didn’t impact me, or left me vulnerable, I still have anxiety issues while I talk about it, but I’m sure I’m healing everyday.”

Ananya has also been working in the remote areas where it is prone to severe flooding. Ananya shares, “Northeastern India unfortunately gets torrential downpours in the monsoon, and it floods every year. Through my non-profit Tribal Connect & with the help of my generous friends and well-wishers, and our 120 relentlessly hardworking volunteers in the region, we manage not only to feed  the flood affected victims in the state through our Community Kitchens,  but we reach out to them with Menstrual kits, baby products and all that’s required during a disaster like this.  Shelters are also provided to the displaced in our Community Centers across the state.”

Talking about how her son helped in accumulating funds for a Learning centre she shet up, Ananya, as a proud mom shares, “  I always had this in my mind to build one exclusive Learning Center for adults in a remote indigenous location in Assam, for people who couldn’t access better education as a kid. That’s when my son offered to help. He turned 15 this year, and we both came together to raise funds by putting his paintings on sale. He contributed half of the amount that was needed to build the center. Further all expenses to keep the center functional will be funded from the revenue that’s collected from the sale of his paintings.

Photograph courtesy- Ananya Paul Dodmani. Copyright reserved

I would like to say that motherhood is a tricky affair, you need to balance the wheel very well.

For the 209 kids who stay in our different Community Centers who call me Phi,  granny in indigenous Karbi language, eat, sleep, learn & have fun with us. These kids along with my one biological kid not only believe that we can collectively impact the society but are constantly working towards a becoming a generation who we all will be proud some day.

In today’s times do raise kids who not only have a strong voice, but a kinder heart. We need more human with a human heart at this moment than ever when the world is in such a turmoil.”

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