Union minister Smriti Irani and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya on Tuesday awarded 12 women from different parts of the country to recognise the transformational impact of their work across villages, towns and cities.
“Women Transforming India Awards”, this year, to promote equal opportunity to women, received 3,000 entries from across the country.
The list of winners included Subasini Mistry, who saved for two decades to build a hospital for the needy after losing her husband at a young age, Arunima Sinha for being India’s first amputee to climb Mount Everest, and goat veterinarian Sunita Kamble for creating alternative livelihood opportunities for women.
A jury comprising former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, Indian Olympian P.T. Usha, Indian Air Force officer, Wing Cdr Pooja Thakur, Panagariya, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, and UN Resident Coordinator Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator undertook the process to shortlist 12 top awardees.
These are the 12 Women who have been awarded for transforming India and their heart-warming stories
Laxmi Agarwal, Uttar Pradesh
In 2005, a shy 14-year-old Laxmi Agrawal, who nursed dreams of being a singer and participating in reality TV shows, was waylaid by her 32-year-old stalker and his friends. Laxmi had rejected his advances and turned down his proposal days before the incident. The man and his friends threw acid on Laxmi’s face to teach her a lesson for her ‘arrogance’. Her stalker felt that if he destroyed her face, her fate would be worse than death, given the emphasis society places on looks, especially for women.
Laxmi was left to die on a busy road, with cars hitting her unconscious body, till a Good Samaritan helped get her to a hospital. Despite the trauma, the nightmarish months spent in the hospital and the disgusting yet predictable reactions from people, Laxmi’s spirit remained indomitable. Acid had melted her skin but not her being. Her family’s unwavering support also helped her get back on her feet.
Gradually, the braveheart took back control of her life and used her experience to help other survivors like her. She became an activist campaigner for Stop Acid Attacks and also realized her childhood dream of being in front of the camera by becoming a television host. In 2014, she received the International Women of Courage Award by the former US First Lady Michelle Obama. She was also chosen as the NDTV Indian of the year. Laxmi continues to challenge artificial and misogynistic stereotypes thrust upon women by society and inspires survivors like her to take the world by the horns.
Subasini Mistry, Hasnapukur, West Bengal
Having lost her husband at a young age due to lack of medical care, 65-year- old Subasini Mistry toiled for two decades to realize her dream of building a hospital for the needy. She is living proof that one does not need to be young, rich or educated to be an achiever. What it does take is grit, hard work and the audacity of hope. Subasini Mistry’s husband, a vegetable vendor, died at a young age because he was too poor to get medical help for a common ailment.
Within a month of his death, his illiterate wife and four children were on the streets. Like her late husband, Subasini too started selling vegetables to make ends meet. She vowed that one day she would build a hospital for the poor and needy in the very village her husband breathed his last in.
People laughed at her impossible dream. But Subasini was no ordinary woman. For the next 20 years, she worked as a domestic help, manual labourer and vegetable vendor. She saved most of her earnings for her dream hospital, while spending the rest on raising her four kids. Subasini used her savings of two decades to buy an acre of land in her husband’s native village. She appealed to the community to help in any way they could and they did.
Her son, Ajoy, managed to raise Rs 50,000 from acquaintances, friends and organizations. A one-room clinic came into being, the beginning of the hospital-to-be. Three doctors from adjoining areas were persuaded to attend to the sick for free. Patients started streaming in and Subasini became a household name. In 1995, the foundation stone for the hospital was laid and was open to the public a year later.
Today, the 45-bed hospital spreads over three acres and has the best of doctors and medical equipment. Major surgeries for the poor are done for less than Rs. 5000 and minor ailments are treated for under Rs. 10. The Humanity Hospital is testament to the iron will and tenacity of Subasini Mistry, a truly extraordinary woman.
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