An Agra café run by acid attack survivors, three scientists involved with Isro’s record breaking satellite launches, Asia’s first woman diesel train driver and a Chhattisgarh constable who crowd funds medical treatment for the poor – this year’s Nari Shakti awardees are a disparate group of achievers.
Instituted by the Union women and child development ministry, the awards will be given away to 31 recipients by President Pranab Mukherjee on March 8, the International Women’s Day.
Sheroes, the world’s first café run by all acid attack survivors is an example.
“My step mother threw acid on my face when I was 14 year old. Since then I have been holed inside my uncle’s house, embarrassed and afraid of the outside world. Sheroes changed my outlook towards life. I no longer cover my face and confidently serve my customers,” said Roopa Saa, 24, assistant manager at the café run by the Chhanv Foundation.
Initially, survivors were reluctant to join the café but now they walk in looking for an opening, Saa added. The popularity of the Agra café that opened in 2014 led to the opening of two more branches in Udaipur and Lucknow with 21 staff, all acid attack survivors.
For Anatta Sonney, a scientist at Flight Dynamics Group, Isro’s satellite centre at Bangalore, the news came as a pleasant surprise. “Very rarely do you see women scientists getting such awards,” she said.
She will share the award with Subhu Varier, and B Codanayaguy, the other two women scientists who played a significant role in the recent launch of 104 satellites besides the Mars Orbiter Mission, whose acronym is also a tribute to mothers – MOM.
Sonney, who was part of the launch team of Mangalyaan said the journey so far has been challenging but fulfilling. “Before launch time we put in equally long hours as our men colleague, missing holidays and family functions. But the mission’s success makes you forget all that. I think, as women, our job is more challenging as we have to balance both home and work,” she said.
Mumtaz Kazi, Asia’s first women diesel driver could not agree more.
Kazi who has been at the driver’s seat for 26 years has also been chosen for this year’s award. “It’s a hard job. When you are at the wheels you are single handedly responsible for your passengers’ safety,” she told HT from Mumbai.
But Kazi has a different dream for her 13-year-old daughter. “She is interested in aeroplanes and wants to be a pilot.”
Smita Tandi, a Chhattisgarh constable who helps crowd source fund through social media platform like Facebook to help poor people in her state get treatment, and the Tripunithura Kathakali Kendram, the world’s first all woman kathakali troupe are among the other awardees.
Besides individual achievers, the Nari Shakti awards are also given to organisations and institutions that have helped empower women and bought change on the ground.