We need to celebrate the infinite potential in women. In a bid to commemorate the unsung heroes from rural areas who are working at the grassroots level to empower other women in their community, the CII Foundation organised an awards ceremony in Delhi on 27th April. The foundation invited President Pranab Mukherjee to distribute awards and prize money to three exemplary women that they had selected from different parts of the country.

Secunderabad-based Jayamma Bandari, West Bengal’s Manika Majumdar and Kamal Kumbhar from Maharashtra won the Women Exemplar award in education, health and micro-enterprise categories respectively.

Jayamma’s NGO empowers sex workers & their children

Orphaned at the age of 3, Jayamma had dropped out of school due to poverty. Later, domestic violence forced her to earn through sex work. She fought against all odds to set up the Chaithanya Mahila Mandali (CMM), an NGO dedicated to empowering women and protecting children of sex workers from harassment, trafficking and sexual abuse and ensuring their formal education.

Jayamma told SheThePeople.TV, “Today I only want to request the society to not hold stigma against the second-generation of sex workers. Their children need support now more than ever before as we need to ensure that they don’t get into the business and catch fatal diseases and addictions.”

Manika makes mental healthcare accessible to the maginalised

Manika, who won the award in the health category, is West Bengal’s first trained barefoot community mental health counsellor. She and her team from Anjali, a Kolkata-based NGO, run a community mental health kiosk to provide de-stigmatized, accessible and affordable mental healthcare to marginalized individuals and families across 35 municipal wards.

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Kamal helps women run poultry farms

Kamal walked out of poverty and a failed marriage to set up the Kamal Poultry and Ekta Sakhi Producer Company. Her ventures have enabled 3,000 women to run successful poultry farms, doubling their households’ incomes in the drought-prone region of Osmanabad in Maharashtra. A serial entrepreneur, Kamal today owns six different businesses and is a role model business leader.

Kamal was overjoyed to receive the award and said that she did not even feel so happy even on her own wedding day.

The award is part of the CII Foundation Woman Exemplar Program which focuses on promoting women’s empowerment at the community level by discovering and recognizing those who chose to look beyond their limitations and contribute significantly to positively impact the community. This year, they had finalised 16 women leaders, among whom Jayamma, Manika and Kamal were awarded.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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