Women Who Made a Difference.
It may be recalled that from time immemorial, women in India have excelled in diversified fields. The contributions of great philosophers like Gargi and Maitreyi, theologians like Anupama and Lopamudra, poetesses like Reva and Mahadevi, dramatists like Artreyi and Amarpalli, scientists like Leelavati and Khana, warriors like Razia and Lakshmibai and administrators like Sugandha and Ahilyabai are recorded in the annals of Indian history. Today more and more women have come forward to shoulder responsibilities in various walks of life.
In the post-independence era, the contributions made by Indira Gandhi, the longest serving woman head of a government in the world (16 years as Prime Minister), Vijaya Laxmi Pandit, the first woman president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and Mother Teresa, the first female Nobel laureate from Asia who adopted India as her home, are written in golden letters in the history of our country. It is worth mentioning the contributions made by Justice Anna Chandy, first woman Judge of a High Court, Dr. Sucheta Kriplani, the first woman Chief Minister of a State, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the first woman Minister of the Union of India and Dr. Ashima Chatterjee, the first woman President of the Indian Science Congress.
Among the women who made the country proud in the world are also Ms. Kalpana Chawla who orbited the space, Lata Mangeshkar who holds a world record in singing maximum number of recorded songs, Arti Saha who swam across the English Channel, Bachendri Pal who scaled Mt. Everest, P. T. Usha and Karnam Malleswari who won medals in international sports and Kiran Bedi, Aruna Roy, and Medha Patkar who won the coveted Magsaysay award for their contributions to society.
The Government of India instituted five National Awards viz. 'Stree Shakti Puraskar' in 1999 in the name of five illustrious daughters of India. They were Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Kannagi, Rani Gaidinliu Zeliang, Devi Ahilya Holkar and Mata Jijabai. The sixth award viz. Rani Rudramma Devi Award was added in 2007 recognizing individual men or women for their outstanding administrative skill, leadership quality and courage. Each award is presented annually and carries a cash prize of rupees three lakh and a Citation.
Every year the awards are given to women who have made outstanding contributions in the fields like: support and rehabilitation of women and children in difficult circumstances - destitute, disabled, aged and infirm, victims of atrocities and conflicts, etc; education and training; promoting self help groups; support to women in agriculture and rural industry, including promotion of technology to reduce drudgery; environmental protection; health, including propagation of indigenous systems of medicine; and creating awareness and consciousness on women's issues through art and media, including community-based programmes.
Women and Child Development Department, Government of India, has an elaborate process of search and selection in spotting such outstanding awardees. The Ministry publishes advertisements in leading local and regional newspapers inviting nominations from State Governments. Each State Government is advised to constitute a Screening Committee to scrutinize the nominations in their respective state and recommend six names for consideration of the National Selection Committee under the Chairpersonship of the Minister of State (I/C), Women and Child Development. In addition, the National Selection Committee also considers the recommendations of suitable individuals suo motu.
The six women who have won these coveted awards this year are from Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Sikkim, and Andhra Pradesh. The awardees are:
Ms. Hypno Padma Kamlakar (Andhra Pradesh)
Ms. Hypno Padma Kamlakar was honoured with Devi Ahilya Holkar Award for the year 2011 in recognition of her commendable work for the overall development of women and creating awareness and consciousness on women's issues. Ms. Kamlakar was born in a village in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on August 5, 1971 and completed her postgraduation in sociology, counseling and psycho therapy, marriage and family counseling, family and health counseling etc. She believes that women must mentally prepare for developing themselves economically socially and politically. She was the first woman hypnotist and psychologist to practice counseling and has conducted more than 1500 programmes across the country. She has published 23 books on women development. She, with a dignified note, says that 'tomorrow is mine'. She has helped in removing barricades of ill beliefs and ill faiths. Her programmes have also been telecast by many TV channels.
Ms. Kanwaljit Kaur (Chandigarh)
Ms. Kanwaljit Kaur was honoured with Kannagi Award for the year 2011 in recognition of her commendable support to rehabilitation of women and children in difficult circumstances. Ms. Kaur was born on August 25, 1958 in Amristar, Punjab. She is an active social worker and honorary Director of Nari Niketan, Chandigarh. She actively supports and rehabilitates women and children in distress. She takes care of aged and abandoned women, orphaned children, widows and women victims of violence. She provides hope, guidance and counseling to blind girls. She is also known for treating Nari Niketan as her second home. Apart from financial assistance, she gives a personal touch to each resident of Nari Niketan by treating them like her elder and younger sisters raising their spirits high with joy and hope. Through her painstaking efforts more than 300 women and girls have been restored to their families during the last three years. She is also working with the Anganwadi centres and juvenile homes in Chandigarh. For her selfless service, the Governor of Punjab had honoured her in 2010.
Ms Jagmati Malik (Haryana)
Ms Jagmati Malik was conferred with Mata Jijabai Award for the year 2011 in recognition of her commendable service in the areas of education and training, promotion of self help groups, environment protection and empowerment of women. She was born on February 15, 1977 in village Hathwala in Jind district of Haryana. She has worked in the areas of women empowerment, organization of self help groups, training in different skills for women, naturopathy for women's health, self employment for women, HIV/AIDS, eye camps for women, awareness generation on environmental conversation, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, MGNREGA, female foeticide, total sanitation, value education, training of panchayat women leaders, right to information, rural sports and child marriage. She was conferred with National Youth Award for 2005-2006. She was also given outstanding woman of Haryana State Award.
Ms. Draupadi Ghimiray (Sikkim)
Ms. Draupadi Ghimiray was conferred with Rani Gaidinliu Zeliang Award for the year 2011 for her honourable work on support to and rehabilitation of disabled women and children. She is involved in welfare of women, children and challenged persons. She worked for children with disability in 1983. She also organized and started Bal Vikas School supported by SAI Samiti in 1987-89. She has worked as instructor for Adult Education Programme in 1992. She took active interest to form Sikkim Viklang Sahayata Samiti in 1999 and was nominated as the President of the Samiti. For her selfless service, she has received numerous awards notably the State Government Award in 2005.
Ms. Sandhya Pandey (Chhattisgarh)
Ms. Sandhya Pandey was honoured with Rani Laxmibai Award for the year 2011 for her spirit of courage and personal achievement in the face of adverse conditions. Ms. Pandey was born on June 28, 1977 in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh and is the eldest of five sisters in her family. She lost her eyesight in 1999 while studying for M. Sc in Mathematics. She remained in coma for about 7 months in a hospital and came close to death which she conquered. Her eyesight could not be restored fully. Ms. Pandey works as a teacher and is involved in adoption of girls, women empowerment, population measures, promotion of self help groups, welfare of homeless women and children, widows and destitute women. She has successfully completed D. Ed examination.
Ms. Rakhee Gupta Bhandari (New Delhi)
Ms. Rakhee Gupta Bhandari was honoured with Rani Rudramma Devi Award for the year 2011 for her administrative skills, leadership quality and commendable work for the overall development of women. An officer of the 1997 batch of the Indian Administrative Service of Punjab cadre, she has done outstanding work for getting women in the mainstream by encouraging women sarpanches to appear in public offices. Posted as sub divisional magistrate in Rampura Phul and Sangrur sub-divisions, her personality and amiable nature encouraged women to meet her for redressal of their grievances. As Director, Social Security, Women and Child Development, Punjab she implemented many schemes for welfare of women. Her innovative idea of organizing Lohri programmes for girl child, visiting old age homes, widows, destitute women's homes are noteworthy. She was also instrumental in making regional spinal centre, Mohali operational. As Deputy Commissioner, Faridkot, she campaigned for mentally challenged people and was associated with awareness campaign on drug abuse, female foeticide, women and girls in distress and environment protection.
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