grantees » N. Selvi

Selvi N., India

Selvi is a native of the Kurumba indigenous community, which is classified as a primitive tribal group, and she is a relentlessly hard worker for the harmony of the environment and its people. With little education and a laboring job, she surpassed all expectations and joined the Keystone Foundation in 2002. Keystone focuses on the land development, conservation and non-timber produce of Selvi’s native Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve together with its indigenous communities. Selvi has blossomed as an expert in issues facing indigenous people including their rights, sustainable livelihoods and conservation of their natural environment. She organizes workshops and festivals to inspire community initiatives for wild foods, medicinal plants and indigenous environmental wisdom. Her nominator Sneh Nath describes her as a “good manager [who] wants to take her community further as a young leader, keeping in mind both the traditional aspects and modern trends”.

Selvi has been instrumental in raising the voices of the indigenous peoples, documenting practices in danger of being lost and editing the monthly newspaper for community members. To strengthen her capacities in leadership and communications, Selvi used the JWH initiative grant to gain formalized skills in journalism, creative writing, publishing and digital layout designs. Through her newfound skills and the readings of the newsletter she organized for those with lower literacy, interest skyrocketed. She says; I believe this scholarship not only helped me, but all the barefoot journalists we have trained and want to train. I am an indigenous person with hardly any education, and this course has helped me communicate my ideas better and help my team successfully achieve our aims. We need to communicate to all about our ideas of a green world, forests, water and indigenous cultures.” After learning a lot about commercial journalism, Selvi realised that her niche is more close-knit and has her sights set on all-around improvement. Despite the difficulties of having to travel large distances to collect and report the news, she continues to work on the community’s communications, spreading to radio, where “soon a community radio will be set up in the area exclusively for the indigenous communities.” She aims to make the news dissemination self-sustaining in the coming year. 

In her own words: “Our primary aim is to establish the cultural identity and revival of traditions of all the indigenous communities and make the communities occupy their rightful and respectable place in the society. I would like to explore more innovative methods to solve the problems faced by the communities consistently and make the primitive tribal groups into viable healthier, educated and culturally proud citizens of the land.”