Elizabeth Edattukaran – India

Linked with The Salesian Sisters, and with North Eastern Community Health Association NECHA.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Sister Elizabeth Edattukaran was born in 1938 into a humble Christian family in village Malla, Trichur district, Kerala. She has worked fearlessly and relentlessly under the most trying circumstances, and at considerable personal risk, to provide healthcare and relief to people affected by conflict and violence in northeast India. She has also been instrumental in setting into motion several conflict resolution initiatives, and in providing livelihood options to women affected by ethnic violence. Her deep faith in god and her humane touch have helped dispel much of the fear and distrust that result from endemic conflicts.

It is said: In many, many ways, Sister Elizabeth personifies the words “in the service of God”, bringing together two neighboring communities separated by ethnic distrust.

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sorry, we have no photo of Elizabeth Edattukaran, India

She works for the Salesian Sisters.

She had six siblings. From her parents, who were both very involved with social service, she absorbed the Christian values of giving and service to society.

Elizabeth is trained to be a nurse and holds a PCBSc degree in nursing. She has also obtained a diploma in administration, and higher training in geriatric nursing. She has worked in Northeast India since 1956, founding the Rapsun School of Nursing in 1979 (which she handed over to the Holy Cross Sisters in 1988).

Since 1984, Elizabeth has been directly involved with providing health services and relief to people affected by violence. The ethnic violence in the Northeast deeply disturbed her: during the eponymous 1984 Nellie massacre of an immigrant community in Assam, she was an important player in healing the wounded and the affected. She was also key in the rehabilitation work that followed an upsurge of ethnic violence in Meghalaya. In 1985, she received a presidential award for her exemplary services.

Since 1991, Elizabeth has been working under very difficult circumstances in Assam’s Kokrajhar district. In 1996, when communal and ethnic violence erupted in the area, she immersed herself completely in providing much-needed medical and emotional support to the broken communities. She is deeply involved in healthcare, with a special focus on reproductive health for the most marginalized tribal communities.

Elizabeth has also been instrumental in setting into motion confidence-building and conflict-resolution initiatives. An intercultural peace meet was organized, with her as a key member of the committee. She played a leadership role in providing basic necessities, healthcare, and trauma-counseling to victims who had witnessed the killings of their dearest ones. Equally remarkable is her work on enhancing skills and providing livelihood options to women affected by ethnic violence.

What sets Elizabeth’s work apart is the remarkable confluence of her training as a nurse and her ability also to heal the mind through care and trauma-counseling. She also focuses on what she calls “unpacking” – shedding the layers of hatred and enmity between the communities.

She has worked relentlessly, fearlessly – and silently – under the most trying circumstances, in the deep belief that providing much-needed support with a humane touch will help build the broken and injured psyches of people affected by violence and discrimination. She has managed to dispel the fear and distrust that crept up between two ethnic communities, which have otherwise lived in close proximity, sharing the meager resources of the forests.

The Northeast is an extremely marginalized region, with little or no infrastructural support, beset by enmity and distrust between different ethnic communities, and a deep-rooted suspicion of the outsider. Elizabeth, an outsider herself, had to grapple with all of these adversities – more so because she chose to involve herself directly in the areas that were prone to communal and ethnic violence.

There were considerable risks in the very act of moving around in strife-torn areas. As a nun, though, Elizabeth had already dedicated herself to God and society, so she worked relentlessly, with no thought to personal safety. However, periods of great tension have inevitably followed her work for a particular community, only to earn the enmity of the rival community.

Her life in those times has depended entirely on her ability to prove her impartiality to both communities, and her dedication to God and humanity, rather any particular societal faction. Added to all of these worries were considerable financial constraints: she had to constantly grapple with the Church hierarchies to enlist support for her work.

Elizabeth’s selfless dedication to the most dispossessed groups, her courage in venturing out into highly unsafe areas, and her belief that peace can only be achieved through constructive hands-on work at the grassroots have had a profound influence on everyone who has had an opportunity to interact with her.

In many, many ways, Sister Elizabeth personifies the words “in the service of God”. (1000peacewomen).

links:

Northeastern Community Health Association NECHA;

the world of GSB Konkani.

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