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Sustainable change occurs when a community owns it. Read the engaging stories of such grassroot champions – community warriors who won the Plan India Impact Awards 2018.
Pari Singh, a native of a small village from Jharkhand, came upon the full evil of child marriage when her precocious cousin, who was married at a very young age, succumbed to death after 90% burns. This traumatic incident occurred in 2011 – and the loss triggered something in Pari such that within four days of her sister’s death, she gave herself to the cause of fighting against the issues that had been corroding her society for the last several decades including child marriage, child labour and gender discrimination.
Last week, I had the opportunity to watch ‘Pari didi’ as she is fondly called, win in the Youth Champion for Girls’ rights category at the Plan India Impact Awards 2018. Pari is just twenty two years old but is a role model for all the young girls in her community! It is grassroots champions like Pari and their work that Plan India celebrates through the Plan India Impact Awards.
“If today I can stand here and say that our efforts have benefited millions, it is because of the front line champions” – Bhagyashree Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India in her welcome address at Plan India Impact awards 2018
Truly so, at the core of any development and change are people who belong to the community. It is when they come forward and take charge of their communities, that sustainable development happens.
These last mile champions who mostly go unnoticed have limited resources but are determined to uplift their communities. It, thus becomes important to acknowledge their efforts and bring their stories into the spotlight – to be shared widely, for others to be motivated and become a part of the change.
This year, the Plan India Impact Awards 2018 brought forward stories from across 22 Indian states, of champions who have dedicated themselves to the cause of their communities. With participation from 190+NGO partners, 289 nominations were finally narrowed down to 21 finalists across seven categories.
Another inspiring story I came across was that of Anupam Singh, who was the winner in the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA)/ Auxillary Nurse Midwife (ANM) category. Anupam, a young woman from the Ambedkar Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, was recognized for her indomitable will and exceptional efforts to spread awareness on health issues in her community. She has been working tirelessly for around thirteen years now and helps pregnant mothers as well as educates adolescents about puberty. Her journey has been full of challenges yet she has marched to this stage braving all the odds and without giving up.
On a mission of ensuring complete health of mothers and children in her village, Anupam helped 36 mothers during and post delivery in a single year and today all these mothers and their children are protected and in perfect health.
Anupam Singh receiving the award
These front line champions are an inspiration for many and a true epitome of extreme enthusiasm, undying hope and tremendous hard work. Pitabas Majhi, winner of the Outreach Worker /Front line worker/PPTCTR Worker/Swachhagiri category believes in and stands by the principle, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Fondly called ‘Pita Bhai’ in his community in Mayurbhanj, Odisha, he is a man who wears many feathers in his hat. A singer, a composer, a lyricist, a performer, puppeteer and a football coach, Pita Bhai uses multiple forms of expression to advance awareness on several child protection issues including child marriage and child labour. The children’s favourite puppeteer is a saviour to many of them and a coach to 12 district level football teams in the region. For all these children, football is a not just a sport but a way towards an empowered and independent future that Pita Bhai is enabling. His efforts have enabled many tribal girls to become district level football players today!
Pitabas Majhi receiving the award
The challenges are many but the champions are undeterred. As Pari Singh, winner of the Youth Champion for Girls rights shared with me, “metric meant shaadi, child marriage – the biggest challenge in my community. But now things are changing.” With her unrelenting courage and a never say die attitude, Pari works tirelessly spreading awareness amongst children and adolescents about their rights and is writing a new chapter in her community along with many girls to whom she is a role model.
Today her community realises the importance of being self sufficient and is enrolled in various ambitious skill development schemes. With an indomitable spirit she shares, “Whenever anyone feels jealous of you, gets vexed or puts roadblocks in your way, be assured that you are on the right track”.
Pari Singh receiving the award
Filled with great hope and deeply moved after listening to the many stories of people like Pari Singh, Anupam Singh and Pitabas Majhi at the recently concluded Plan India Impact Awards 2018, I could easily see the recognition these change makers received would go a long way in inspiring many others to come forward and be a part of the change. As Anupam shared, “Now I want to work hard to see the change that women and girls in my village become so empowered that they go and ask for their rights themselves. I want many women and girls from my village to come to the Plan India Impact Awards platform and receive felicitation for their efforts”.
Top image via Pixabay for representational purposes only. All other images courtesy Plan India
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