“Mother of social work in southern India” dies

A pioneering social work educator in southern India died on May 31 in Mangaluru, a coastal city of Karnataka state. She was 95.

Jun 01, 2020

By Thomas Scaria
A pioneering social work educator in southern India died on May 31 in Mangaluru, a coastal city of Karnataka state. She was 95.

Olinda Pereira, a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary (DHM) congregation, was the key founder of the School of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya Mangaluru.

The body of Pereira was kept at Roshni Nilaya for public viewing.

The funeral Mass scheduled at 3.30 pm on June 1 at Roshni Nilaya, followed by burial at Valencia St. Vincent Ferrer Cemetery. “We kindly request you to follow the guidelines laid down by the District Administration due to lockdown,” says a message from Philomena D`Sa, the congregation’s India provincial.

Pereira was born on August 15, 1925, as the third of three children of Martin and Lily Pereira, in Mangalore. She completed her bachelor’s course from Mangalore’s St Agnes College, master’s in psychology from Banaras Hindu University and doctorate from Mysore University.

Pereira played a key role in developing professional social work as a dignified job with emphasis on social justice and equality, says C J Juliet, current principal of the Roshni Nilaya. Her initiative helped the Church change its traditional “welfare concept” to a more justice-oriented social work, the member of the same congregation told Matters India while mourning Pereira’s death.

Pereira was the younger sister of the mother of Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, a renowned social activist in India. “The world has lost a legend. She lived life to the fullest, and what radiated from her consistently was her cheerful countenance and her positive nature,” the priest mourning his aunt’s death.

Kalpana Sarathy, professor and deputy director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati, hailed Pereira as a well-known person who had worked for women’s development for years.

Ronnie Thomas, a master’s graduate of Roshini Nilaya, says Pereira was “fondly remembered as the mother of social work by several of her students and the general public in Mangalore and elsewhere.”
Juliet, referring to Pereira’s involvement in several civil organizations, said: “There is no area which she has not touched, right from women’s education to social upliftment of the rag pickers and drug addicts.”

Pereira was instrumental in organizing the Council of Catholic Women of India.

She had also served as the vice president of Mangalore-based Link Anti Addiction Citizens Committee for more than two decades. Link was originally started in Roshni Nilaya in 1991 as an initiative of the Social work students.

The institute chose “Love Made fruitful in service” as its motto, which was embodied in Pereira, Juliet explained.

Pereira worked for the promotion of women’s education and empowerment of the weaker sections in various parts of the country such as Delhi, and Mumbai where she developed innovative social projects. She also worked in Nairobi and established their provincial house there.
Pereira served as principal of Roshini Nilaya from 1961 to 1982.

She started several grassroots institutes such as Working Women’s Hostel and Women’s Development Centre in New Delhi, Vishwas, home care for the elderly, community development centers, family welfare organization, and many other organisations in Mangaluru.

Among the several awards she won are Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award from McMaster University, Hamilton in 1979, Women Achiever Award from St Agnes College in 1997, Sandesha Award for Social Service in 2002; Rachana Woman of the Year in 2008, Veera Rani Abbakka Award (for Social Service) and Karavali Honarary Award 2015-16.--Matters India

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