Ms. Nau Gora
Woman & Child Rights Leader, Changemaker par excellence, Humanitarian, Gandhian Social Worker is no more.
Ms. Nau Gora (1948-2020), daughter of Gora and Saraswathi Gora, well known social reformers of India, breathed her last at 5.30 a.m., today, November 7, 2020 at Vijayawada, due to septicemia. She stood for the cause of child rights and transformed lives of thousands of coastal, tribal, artisan, street children, poor and marginalized children and families in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. She was the Secretary of Arthik Samata Mandal (ASM), a well-known Gandhian NGO.
She is undoubtedly, one of the leading community based and child centric disaster preparedness, thought and action leader of India, committing 40 years of her life, for the cause of children living in the harm’s way. She was popularly known as ‘amma’ to lakhs of children, woman counsellor with a difference, humanitarian to the people living in the harm’s way, innovator to the weaving community, strong civil society leader on secular lines, who has kept firm footing on ground and transforming lives in an integrated manner.
Her simplicity, ‘let actions speak attitude’, service above self and innovative thinking for the socio-economic-cultural change and disaster preparedness in the rural and urban communities has touched lives of scores of people across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Her Gandhian thought and action, demonstrated change.
Nau Gora is the Ninth child of Gora (1902- 1975) and Saraswathi Gora (1912-2006), well known social reformers of India. She was not only the last child in the family; she was also born in 1948 after attainment of political Independence to India. Others in the family were born before Independence and hence she was named as Nau, the 9th in the family. She was brought up at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, which is akin to Gandhian ashram run on secular, humanist and atheist way of life.
Right from her early days, Nau Gora had the opportunity to participate in various activities, which inculcated Gandhian, humanist and secular values. She studied in Vasavya Vidyalayam, an experimental school started by Gora and Saraswathi Gora at Atheist Centre. (va sa vya acronym stands for vastavikata (reality), sanghadhrusti (social outlook) and vyaktitvam (development of personality of the individual). She earned her graduation in social sciences from Maris Stella College, Vijayawada and a post-graduation in Sociology from Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh.
Right from her student days, she was actively involved in secular social work activities in the villages and slums. At the suggestion of world renowned, American Peace Activist and Quaker leader, Dr. George Willoughby, she had been to Pendle Hill, Wallingford, in Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, to undertake a course on Peace and Nonviolence at the Center for Nonviolent Social Change, USA. The Center was headed by Dr. George Willoughby, a known Gandhian, peace activist and was a champion of social and racial integration in USA.
During her stay for one year, she visited and spoke on social change and development across USA. She also participated in the Anti-Vietnam War movement in USA on nonviolent lines. She had the opportunity to interact with peace activists who were sphere heading the nonviolent movement in the United States. As a keen learner, she wanted to replicate the good practice of the movement in India.
After her return from USA, Nau Gora married Veeraiah, who was associated with well-known Gandhian, Devendra Kumar Bhai. Devendra kumar later became the National Secretary of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi. Mrs. Nau Gora’s stay in Delhi for six years endowed her with rich experience of interactions with a number of Gandhian leaders and workers who have been active in Vinoba’s Bhoodan, Sarvodaya and Gandhian Constructive programme.
This exposure further strengthened her commitment to work in the rural areas on Gandhian lines, to strive for social reconstruction through peace and nonviolence. The couple had two children, Rahat (relief), a boy, who was born in the year of the campaign of ‘Youth against Famine’ entitled Rahat banaam Tarun and a girl ‘Sabala’, to commemorate her birth in the International Women’s Year.
On November 19, 1977, when the Tidal Wave and the devastating cyclone struck the Divi Taluk in Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh, thousands of people lost their lives, livelihoods and hope. The unprecedented natural calamity of the 20th Century in the east Coast of India shook Veeraiah and Nau Gora. They immediately returned from New Delhi to Atheist Centre, Vijayawada to render disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Shri. Prabhakarji, well known Gandhain and an associate of Mahatam Gandhi in Sevagram ashram organized Shav Sena, to remove the dead bodies of humans and also carcasses. Mrs. Nau Gora and Veeraiah along with Lavanam, Hemalatha, Dr. Vijayam and Dr. Samaram and many committed social workers, took active part in relief and rehabilitation of the tidal wave victims. National and international NGOs and concerned individuals extended valuable help in extending support to the children and communities caught up in the web of the worst natural calamity that struck India at that time.
As the epicenter of the calamity was closer to Atheist Centre, it decided to start a secular social work organisation to deal with this great natural calamity for an extended period. The outcome was registering an organization –‘Arthik Samata Mandal’ – an association for achieving economic equality, which was initially started in the form of a movement by Gora and Gandhian economist J.C. Kumarappa, as its founders in 1950s. It may be recalled that Mahatma Gandhi in his Constructive Work, gave highest priority to strive for economic equality and made it 13th Item of the Constructive Programme. Mahatma Gandhi categorically stated that ‘economic equality is the master key to nonviolent revolution.’ Mr. Veeraiah became the Founder Secretary of Arthik Samata Mandal (ASM) and Prabhakarji as its President.
Integrated and Child Centric Development:
Right from ASM’s inception, Mrs. Nau Gora took pivotal role in shaping Arthik Samata Mandal in Divi Taluk in Krishna District. Srikakulam village in Krishna District became the field headquarters. Nau Gora was involved in humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction, child centric community development, women empowerment, handloom weavers’ transformation and integrated development for long term sustainability.
Through ASM, Nau Gora and Veeraiah, decided to cater to farmers and to reach out the people through a series of programmes, to reach out ‘unto this last’, to alleviate human suffering and to support the livelihoods of the people, so that they become self-reliant, with dignity and self-respect. Community development would not be complete without special programmes for children. Before and after the disasters, the children are malnourished due to non-availability of food. ASM took up nutrition programmes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers with the support of Save the Children’s Fund (SCF) since 1977.
Nau Gora and Veeraiah were inseparable couple in all activities and plunged into a variety of programmes and trained people aiming at comprehensive secular and rural development on Gandhian lines and reached out to hundreds of villages across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana area. They roped in support to sustain partnerships for the cause, with Government and INGOs such as Oxfam, Action Aid, EZE, HEKS, NAP, NAO, HIDA, MANITESE, UNICEF, German Agro Action, CARITAS India, TdH, CIDA, SIDA, Operation Eye Sight Universal, CAPART, to name a few. Arthik Samata Mandal was the first developmental partner of Save the Children, the world’s oldest child rights organization and a long standing partner of Plan International (India) and Terre des Hommes (TdH). Through their support for child sponsorship and child centric community development, Arthik Samata Mandal transformed lives of lakhs of children.
Nau Gora and Veeraiah were instrumental in bringing people of eminence and influence together for the cause of children. HRH Princess Anne, Chief Patron of Save the Children Fund UK, Ambassadors, Consular Generals, Gandhian Family, Governors of Andhra Pradesh, Social Reformers, Peace and Environmental Activists, Human Rights supporters, Civil Servants, Administrators, humanist and atheist leaders from India and globally experienced the committed work of Arthik Samata Mandal, under the able leadership of Veeraiah and Nau Gora. Their apolitical, secular and integrated stand for the cause of children was highly appreciated by one and all.
Mrs. Nau Gora’s 40 years’ of commitment for Gandhian social reform, child rights, humanitarian response and preparedness and integrated development, both as a practitioner and as the Secretary of Arthik Samata Mandal will be sorely missed by the people of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Her innovative thinking, contributed significantly for the state development and disaster preparedness. Her life is her message and well-lived for the greater cause of the poor and the marginalized and the younger generation.
Post Veeraiah – 2008-2020:
Upon the demise of her husband, Veeraiah in 2008, Mrs. Nau Gora became the Chief Secretary of Arthik Samata Mandal (ASM). She has been leading and overseeing the integrated development and secular social work programmes of ASM and has taken it to newer heights of influence and depth of change, to transform lives of children.
Mrs. Nau Gora has always remained as a ‘person with the masses’, living the ideals of Gandhian social work and selfless service. Nau Gora was influenced by Gandhian thought and the practical philosophy of Sampoorna Gram Swaraj, through her interactions with her father, Gora (Goparaju Ramachandra Rao) and mother (Saraswathi Gora) as well as her close association with prominent Gandhians such as Devendra Kumar. She was a firm believer in building on the local knowledge and experience and linking it to national and global vision. All through her life, she was committed and passionate to create change, become the voice of the voiceless and the socially, economically and politically marginalized sections of the society.
She has widened the activities and outreach to newer geographical areas and innovative programmes. She was popularly called as ‘Amma’ (Mother) for thousands of children who have received education support through child sponsorship in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Mrs. Nau Gora has built stronger relationships and impactful interventions for the empowerment of dalits, tribals, handloom weavers, coastal and riverline fisherfolk, small and marginal farmers, poor and marginalized sections of the society.
Under her able guidance and leadership, ASM’s programmes focused on integrated child centric community development, women rights, advocacy for the rights of children, health and education, habitat improvement, providing sustainable livelihood options, environmental awareness, Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Resilience, agricultural improvement in Dry Land and Coastal Regions, WASH and allied activities, as well as promoting science and scientific temper, in rural and remotest areas of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Nau Gora’s built interface with State Government, District Administration, Panchayats, Civil Society and Women SHGs to ensure collective action for co-creating sustainable solutions in both rural and urban areas. She encouraged the formation of social capital (CBOs, SHGs, Youth Clubs, Children's Clubs), through which the programmes were conducted and sustained.
Mrs. Nau Gora strove incessantly for women empowerment and rural women entrepreneurship especially among the Lambada tribe in Suryapet and Chivemla Mandals of Telangana State and the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. She facilitated the formation & strengthening of women-led community based organizations in 51 villages, covering more than 20,000 households.
For achieving women empowerment and solidarity, Mahila Mutually Aided Cooperative and Thrift Society (MACTS) with an enrollment of 25,000 plus women from 150 villages was formed and strengthened and now became a multi-crore women’s initiative, for startup and scaling their entrepreneurship development programmes.
Even before the Government framework on SHG was conceptualized in Andhra Pradesh, ASM initiated Mahila Mandals (women groups) as the base organizations at the community level for all the developmental and awareness activities, with a motto of regular savings and promotion of leadership qualities. Till date, more than 200 Mahila Mandals are effectively discharging their duties to their communities and villages. The CBOs have developed gender policy and to that effect ensured that in every committee at village level, equal opportunities are provided to women members like task force committees (TFC), school education committee (SEC) and mothers committee at Anganwadi level etc. Various women empowerment programmes have influenced women to contest in elections starting from WARD member to the Legislative Assembly. More than 400 women are holding various positions in the Panchayat Raj Institutions.
With the commitment of Nau Gora, women took the lead in the development of riverbed lands, sericulture, dairy farming, waste land development and other integrated development programmes.
Girl Child education and life skills was the special priority given by Nau Gora. More than 10,000 adolescents and women acquired vocational skills (Tailoring, Embroidery, bathik printing, tie and dye, handloom work, paintings, block printing, chain dhabhi, jute processing from banana plants, adda leaves and general nursing etc.), which made them to establish micro units for income generation and build dignified livelihoods. More than 500 women were trained as Traditional Birth Attendants' (TBA's) from scheduled and remote tribe communities on basic health aspects, covering ANC I PNC.
Through Arthik Samata Mandal, more than 4000 women were provided with financial support for dairy development program at household level, which contributed towards enhanced financial resources and their children’s education. More than 1300 women were provided with financial startup grant for purchase of yarn and loom accessories for promotion of hand loom sector at household level. Hundreds of women were provided with handloom skill upgradation trainings for fetching additional wages, thereby impacting on their living standards.
Under the able leadership of Nau Gora, ASM focused on family income generation, micro enterprise development, crop management, bee keeping, promotion of kitchen gardens and development of nurseries to various parts of India. Special Curriculum for Lambadi Tribes, titled Lambada Primer was developed to compensate for the oral culture, which was done in close collaboration with AP SCERT and innovations in the handloom sector has received world-wide acclaim. The community health programmes had significant impact on the health and well-being of scores of children and women. Right from hundreds of polio corrective surgeries and rehabilitation, cataract operations, health camps, immunization drives, birth registration to public awareness, it has touched lives of scores of people and provided hope.
Mrs. Nau Gora and Arthik Samata Mandal have performed and encouraged inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, to build a casteless society in line with secular values and scientific temper. Village level cosmopolitan dinners were organized to bring people from various castes, to dine together. Mass rallies, meetings and trainings on communal harmony, peace and conflict resolution, tolerance, social justice, human rights etc., were conducted in her able leadership to advocate for the cause of women and children. She has been actively involved in all the children’s study camps and World Atheist Conferences. Withering many a storm, Mrs. Nau Gora, fought the resistance, through persistent action and focused on imbibing tolerance, harmony and community driven solutions through sustainable actions.
The programmes facilitated by Nau Gora were innovative, need of the hour, simple, felt need and community driven. The entire Gora family, especially Saraswathi Gora, Lavanam, Hemalatha, Ch. Vidya, Dr. Vijayam, Dr. Samaram, Dr. Maru, Hari Subramanyam, Niyanta, Sumathi and the extended family, led by Ch. Satyanarayana and the ASM staff have contributed significantly by standing by her commitment and passion, to facilitate change.
Nau Gora transformed Arthik Samata Mandal into an epicenter of practical learning and Centre of Excellence for development professionals, attracting various civil servants, Gandhians, social workers, educational institutions etc. It became an incubation for innovative ideas and people driven solutions. Nau Gora’s words echo her commitment, “Children and women should be at the centre of discussion, decision, action and change. Given the space and right opportunities, they would carve their own future.”
Nau Gora received many laurels for her work with children, women and the marginalized sections, including Save the Children’s Change Maker Award on the eve of its 100th Anniversary in New Delhi on September 30, 2019. She was honoured by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh as best Humanitarian NGO in Andhra Pradesh and felicitated by various civil society organizations and institutions.
It is a great loss to women leadership, child rights movement and the development sector. Her life is her message and her work has created hope and social change. She will be fondly remembered for her smile and ‘let’s do it for the children’ attitude. Nau Gora is survived by her son Rahat Gora and daughter, Sabala Gora and daughter-in-law, Soni and son-in-law, Sridhar and her three grandchildren, Saaras, Tejas and Spoorthi. The entire Gora Family, the community and staff are integral to her life and social action.
Obituary written by Vikas Gora
November 7, 2020