From Matters India:

Kakkavayal: As a little girl, Joicy had dreamt of becoming a lawyer to help the poor.

She fulfilled her childhood dream when she became Sister Joicy Joy, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN).

SCN_5813She now serves as a legal advisor to tribal people in the southern Indian state of Kerala through Neethi Vedhi (justice path). By providing legal aid, Sister Joicy now helps many tribal families to find their dignity and rights in society.

It all started with the SCN nuns’ decision to open a house at Kakkavayal in Kerala’s Wayanad district. They wanted to work for the emancipation and empowerment of tribal people of this district.

Sister Joicy works with field officers, social workers who help identify the needs of the tribes. Many of her cases involve illegal labor issues and fair housing.In 2004, they began collaborating with Neethi Vedhi, an NGO, they found shared their mission and vision.

Laborers take advantage of tribal innocence. They promise to build or rebuild homes the tribal homes. However, the laborers take their wages but do not complete the project, leaving the tribal families homeless.

The tribal people are also ignorant about their human rights. Sister Joicy educates the families of their rights, seeking justice through mediation or through the court system. Out of court settlements are encouraged, especially in disputes between family members and neighbors. “In court, the case is about money. Here it is about family,” she said.

The nun said her people go to the tribals although Neethi Vedhi has an office in Wayanad. “The tribal men and women have little options for travel, they can’t get here; we go to them, to their hamlets,” the nun told Matters India.

One of Sister Joicy’s cases deals with young Sarsu and her father. The man refuses to sign over the family’s land to her. Sister Joicy is working to mediate the situation. “It’s a matter of who has the upper hand. Who has the stronger voice,” she added.

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