Sheena Jose
Sheena Jose

Sheena Jose, an active figure in Kerala’s queer and feminist movements, passes away

Sheena was part of and led queer, feminist and environmental movements for three and a half decades.

Sheena Jose, an active member in the feminist movement of Kerala, passed away at the age of 55 early on Sunday morning. Sheena was reportedly unwell for some time and under treatment.

Sheena was active in the feminist and queer movements of the state for the past three and a half decades. She was a lecturer at the Government College of Teacher Education in Thiruvananthapuram, and later an assistant professor at the Institute of Advanced Study in Education, Thrissur.

Social activist Sarath Cheloor wrote a note about the role Sheena played in feminists and queer movements since the 1980s, when she took part in or organised protests, workshops and trips related to social, cultural and political organisations. Her work brought feminism closer to common people, making them realise how it could make practical interventions in day to day life, wrote Sarath. Sheena organised gender classes and workshops in colleges and made marked interventions among young women in campuses, he added.

Sheena led many movements on women's progress, including the national-level meeting of feminist organisations in Kerala in the 1990s. She was the president of Chetana, one of the first three feminist organisations in the state. She led Chetana into many protests against atrocities on women, including the rape of a 16-year-old in Suryanelli.

Sheena was also part of environmental protests. She was an active part of the Save Western Ghats movement and the Peringome anti-nuclear struggle.

Even after being employed as a professor, Sheena continued her activism. She was one of the founding members of the Vibgyor Film Festival.

A number of tributes, including Sarath's, poured in for Sheena after her death, with everyone remembering the role she played in their lives. Actor Kani Kusruti, who recently won the State Award for Best Female Actor, wrote that she understood the beauty, depth and humour of feminism after meeting Sheena. “She would make you laugh and make you think hard,” Kani wrote.

"She was an intelligent woman who could make big theories sound so simple. She would always have some shortcut solution, answers and plans for every problem. Her presence gave courage to many of us. It is because of her that I had the courage to live. Now, it's like one side (of me) has paralysed," Kani added.

There would always be several girls at Sheena's home -- girls who could not stay at their own homes because of difficult circumstances, the actor observed.

"This world is so unpleasant without you. There is no humour anymore. No laughs. No cuddles. It's a sad ignorant place. I kept scratching the map of Thrissur. Is there a way I can make it disappear?" Kani wrote.

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