Real Heroes, a CNN-IBN initiative in partnership with Hindustan Times, celebrates the extraordinary service of India’s ordinary citizens every year.
This year, the awards will felicitate 13 women who fought hard and conquered all obstacles to make a difference.
Today we share four such stories.
* Bhanwari Devi
It’s a name that’s synonymous with the women’s movement in India.
And yet justice continues to elude Bhanwari Devi. Brutally raped in 1992 for reporting a child marriage, Bhanwari continues to be ostracised by her village.
But while she lives on the outskirts of village Bhateri, just 55 km from Jaipur, with her husband who has supported her fight throughout, she continues her community work.
Bhanwari’s legal battle culminated in August 1997 when the Supreme Court defined sexual harassment at the workplace and provided guidelines to deal with it in what came to be called the “Vishaka Judgment”.
* KS Sarojamma
Child labour continues to be one of India’s biggest curses. In silk factories children are put to work for their nimble fingers.
They toil away for long hours, their frail bodies bent over in dimly-lit dungeons. Sarojamma took on the silk trading mafia to fight valiantly for the rights of children working in the factories of Magadi, 70 km from Bengaluru.
Owing to her efforts, over 3,000 children have been rescued and 800 of 1,000 silk units have been shut down.
She now runs ‘Chiguru Balvikas Sanstha’, a home for rescued girl children. Her battle continued even after her husband, a whistle blower, was killed.
* Sabbah Haji
In 2008, Sabbah Haji quit the comfort of her content writing job in Bangalore to return to her ancestral village, Breswana – a tiny piece of heaven in Jammu & Kashmir.
The commerce graduate from Bishop Cotton, Bangalore, spent the next few months setting up the Haji Public School.
From the two rooms of her father Saleem Haji’s home in May 2009, the school today has its own building and nearly 200 children on its rolls, besides two branches in Parsholla and Shadiwan.
Sabbah raises funds through social media sites and invites volunteers to teach at her school that has seen no dropouts in the past five years.
In this terror-prone part of Kashmir, Sabbah is nurturing hope.
* Kabita Bhattarai
There are very few who would venture close to a leper, leave alone tend and care for them. Kabita Bhattarai, our modern day Mother Teresa, is a lone crusader in the battle against leprosy.
Setting up an ashram at Raxaul in Bihar, she has treated nearly half a million patients for free in her 240-bed leprosy hospital.
Kabita manages 21 leprosy colonies and provides free education to over 1,000 children.
The model is quite innovative. Patients are treated for free and, in turn, their family members work voluntarily at the fields, hospital, school and dairy farms owned by the organisation called ‘Little Flower’.
The peripheral activities generate enough income to sustain the core activity of treating leprosy patients.