Forty-year-old Anju Kalundia of Chandil, Seraikela-Kharsawan, had been afflicted with hemiplegia when she was five. It restricted her movement but not her dreams. She is now a social worker and a passionate advocate of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Anju was one of the five women felicitated on Saturday at the 24th Bhanumathi Neelakantan Awards at DBMS English School, the school Neelakantan founded in 1965, here.
The prestigious award, constituted by Neelakantan’s brothers, every year recognises five women and girls from humble backgrounds who have fought odds to fulfil their aspirations. Neelakantan, along with the members of the DBMS family, were present on the occasion on Saturday.
Soumya Ramasubramanian, a social worker from Chennai who works with visually impaired, was the chief guest on the occasion. Ramasubramanian also happens to be the younger sister of Neelakantan.
Apart from Anju, entrepreneur Malti Singh, sportsperson Eisha Sonkar, physics honours student Moumita Biswas and social worker Malti Mardi were felicitated.
Malti Mardi, who is the secretary of Kodia Gram Sangathan in Jamshedpur block, said she red-flagged the issue of women doing equal work for less pay. “In our culture, normally woman do not protest against exploitation. They are taught to be obliging and deferential. I have personally seen women who are made to work day and night and still get far less money than men. I make women aware about their right to equal pay. They are now demanding equal pay for labour. Also, we stopped alcoholism, a major problem in our village. My award will inspire other women to speak up.”
The stories of Malti Singh, Eisha and Moumita are equally inspiring. Malti Singh from Tirildih in Potka is the secretary of her SHG. Married young, Singh was determined to do something with her life. Today, she runs a woodcraft production centre at Tirildih with 14 other members.
Teenager Eisha, who has just completed her matricluation, lost her father at a young age and had to face her share of hardships. But the talented teen bagged the first position in skating in the 3rd South Asian Championship held at Kathmandu, Nepal, and has participated for the past five years in SGFI (School Games Federation of India) in volleyball, football and athletics.
Moumita, pursuing her physics honours, is the daughter of a domestic help. Not to be cowed down by circumstances or inferiority complex, she wants to pursue MSc and become a professor. She teaches children to support herself and also enjoys dancing and painting.
Each winner received a cash prize of Rs 10,000, a memento, gifts and a certificate. “This award aims to recognise the talents of women who are icons in their own way,” said Rajani Shekhar, secretary of Bhanumathi Neelakantan Awards that was registered as a Trust four years ago.
The recipients are usually nominated by academics, corporate houses and social workers. Every year, the Trust sends out nomination forms to social outfits, corporate houses and schools, which refer candidates. A panel selects the final names. However, the girls must be from an underprivileged background.