Mahila Dakshata Society (MDS) was originally established in the state of Andhra Pradesh by Mrs. Suman Krishnakanth. Suman’s spouse, Mr. Krishnakanth was originally a Parliamentarian and later the Governor of Andhra Pradesh. Life as the partner of a public servant gave her valuable insights into the trials and tribulations faced by Indian woman. Deeply concerned by the injustice and social evils plaguing the daily lives of this underprivileged section of society, she decided to contribute her mite by setting up a family counseling centre and a shelter home for abused and abandoned women. By the early nineties, MDS had grown its activities across several districts of Andhra Pradesh and also to parts of North India. Suman was ready to partner with someone with similar zeal and commitment for the cause to give a wider canvas for her activities.
She had made the acquaintance of Mrs. Saranya Hegde while they were in Delhi as they moved in the same social circles. Saranya had worked as a volunteer in social organizations during her college days; this activity, however, had to take a back seat after marriage with the priorities of setting up home and starting a family. When Suman was looking to spread the activities of MDS wider, Saranya was the person she turned to; and Saranya gladly embraced the opportunity to get back to her calling.
Saranya established the Karnataka Chapter of MDS in 1992 with a skeleton staff of four volunteers, working out of her house. Her flagship program was family counseling and she started with spreading awareness of women’s rights in the local community.
What started off as a family counseling center soon grew into a short stay home where women who were abused, or did not have a shelter could come and stay. Her key learning at these early stages of evolution was that education played a major role in shaping women’s lives.
This led her to the establishment of a school, which proved a herculean task since the land allotted was in the custody of some local anti-social elements. Having overcome the challenge of establishing possession in the face of heavy odds, Saranya started with a nursery school operating out of two sheds which now has grown to a two story building with 333 students.
Today Saranya, who is also an accomplished painter, has a sense of fulfillment with the school and the short stay home for women in distress is in full bloom rendering yeoman service to a large segment of the underprivileged population of our country. As she puts it succinctly, “You die only once. So why be afraid. Go forth bravely and fight the injustices and atrocities in our society.”