When the world was grappling with the pandemic and its aftermaths, Lakshmi Menon was busy using her ingenuity and resourcefulness to make a difference to society. She used everything in her creative arsenal to make sure the society benefited immensely during these trying times. And that undoubtedly makes her the recipient of Vanitha 'Woman of the Year' 2020. The award is given to those women who are passionately and selflessly involved in the fields of social welfare, education, and human welfare.
Her methods are inventive, like using the discarded scraps from PPE kits and masks to make bedrolls named ‘Shayya’ to be used by COVID-19 patients in First-Line Treatment Centres as beds. Menon who is the founder of Pure Living Foundation, came up with this zero-cost innovation at a time when the Kerala government had started hundreds of First Line Treatment Centres (FLTCs). She now supplies these bedrolls to panchayats free of cost to be used in such FLTCs instead of regular mattresses that are often hard to disinfect.
Then there is the Samman project which uses the handloom units that had shut down post-COVID to make dresses for the children affected by war. There are schemes for those who have lost their jobs after the pandemic like Co-Veedu, Creative Dignity, helping the State’s handicrafts workers by making use of Kathakali masks are among the 10 other ventures developed by Lakshmi Menon during the COVID crisis time.
In the World Economic Forums 2021 Davos Agenda, Shayya was the lone project featured from South India. Shayya was also featured in the United Nations List of Best Social Welfare Schemes. And it is through UN’s help that the clothes are distributed to the children affected by War. People of Kerala might not have forgotten the adorable Chekutty dolls, the tiny cloth dolls with a cheery face that stood out as a symbol of hope and emancipation during the 2018 floods. Made from damaged clothes, it was done to help weavers of Chendamangalam handloom units who had hit a rough patch post the floods. This was Menon’s pet project. The environmentally friendly Vithu pen (or the Seed pen) which also gave jobs to a lot of people and Ammummathiri which gave employment to a lot of grandmoms are her other schemes.
Daughter of the late PK Narayanan and Sridevi, Menon who is a fashion, Jewellery and Interior designer hail from Thalayolaparambu. Menon believes that simple ideas can make a positive impact in the society. Look out for her detailed feature in this issue of Vanitha.