SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

‘Leave no one behind’ – challenges and ways forward for women, men and children living with disabilities in rural Tamil Nadu

S.R. Jothiramalingam

Date: 10 September 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Finishes: 10 September 2019Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B203

Type of Event: Panel Discussion

A panel discussion with S.R. Jothiramalingam from the Centre for Rural Systems and Development (CRUSADE) and Action Village India:


People living with disability in rural Tamil Nadu experience multiple marginalisations. Their lives are affected by poor health outcomes, lower educational achievements, less economic participation, high rates of poverty and increased dependency. While they are socially and economically excluded because of their disability and rural location, they may be further disempowered by their caste, class and gender identity. ‘Leave no one behind’ was the message of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. It acknowledged the many forms of marginalisation that inhibit human development and emphasised ‘individual dignity’ as a goal in itself. In 2016 the Indian parliament passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act to fulfil its obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In this event we will focus on the work of CRUSADE and draw on the experience of our panel to debate these issues and discuss how we can best support people living with disabilities to ensure that no one is ‘left behind’ by India’s development? 


Jothi Ramalingam is the founder of CRUSADE (Centre for Rural Systems and Development) which was set up in the early 90s in his native town of Minjur near Chennai. Jothi’s vision was to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life of marginalised communities in rural areas. With a team of committed staff, mostly women from the villages around, he has lead the organisation for a quarter of a century. CRUSADE is now reaching out to around 50,000 people in more than 100 villages in four development blocks of Tiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu, building the capacity of poor women, people living with disabilites, the elderly and other marginalised groups. Jothi has a post-graduate degree in economics from Madras university. He was with the Tamil Nadu State Government service until 1978 when he joined the National Dairy Development Board in Gujarat. He served the board in the planning division until 1984, which was instrumental in spreading the cooperative dairy movement across India. From 1984-1991 he was employed with a national level voluntary organisation based at Madurai and was involved in a development project for education and economic advancement of families in remote villages of Natham block.

Dr Mary Wickenden is a disability researcher, with a particular interest in inclusive and participatory research and in hearing the voices of adults and children with disabilities and their families, especially those living in the global south or in disadvantaged contexts.She initially trained as a speech/language therapist in the UK, working with families with children with severe disabilities. She subsequently trained in medical and social anthropology, her PhD focussing on identity and agency for teenagers with severe disabilities and little or no speech. She has worked extensively on disability related research, intervention and training projects in South Asia, East and Southern Africa. She believes strongly in the importance of inclusive approaches to international development research and service provision and in the recognition of the equal rights of adults and children with disabilities globally. Recent projects have focussed on: disabled people’s experiences of gender based violence, disabled children’s evaluations of inclusive education, participatory impact evaluation of community based rehabilitation programmes and the lives of carers looking after disabled people.

Sylvie advises on developing research projects that are in line with ADD International's strategy and the needs of our country programmes, and that can provide evidence to support advocacy work. She also supports our programme teams to improve their effectiveness and to embed the concept of gender equality in their work. Sylvie chairs the disability working group for the Gender and Development Network and is co-chair of the International Disability and Development Consortium's task group supporting Disabled People’s Organisations from the global south.

The event is free to attend but registration required. Click here to register. 


Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute, Action Village India

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4390