She has met President Pranab Mukherjee and spent time with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She has had dinner with Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi. And, she has been honoured by the Government of India.
Yet, nobody seems to know that 21-year-old Anoyara Khatun is waiting for more than a year for a decent home under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
Now a hero in her neighbourhood, Anoyara Khatun was the youngest to receive the prestigious ‘Nari Shakti Puraskar’ on International Women’s Day in Delhi. “What can I say? We applied for a home more than a year ago. But we haven’t heard from anyone yet,” Anoyara told HT on Friday. “I can’t even remember when I filed the application,” she added.
Hailing from a Below-poverty-level family in Choto Asgara village (North 24 Parganas district) Anoyara’s mother works as a cook for self help groups that provide mid-day meals to school children. The paltry payment and an old-age stipend is all she has to run the family. Her brother and his family stay separately.
“Their hut is in a dilapidated condition and her family applied for a home under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana scheme long ago. We spoke to the local panchayat members who said the family is mentioned on the list of applicants,” said Hriday Ghosh, head of Dhagogia Social Welfare Society, a partner of the NGO, Save the Children, at Sandeshkhali which set up children groups to combat trafficking in parts of Bengal.
Financially, the award has done little for Anoyara who is an icon in the fight against child trafficking in Bengal. She is part of the childrens’ resistance groups that are successfully fighting evils such as trafficking of children and marriage of minors.
“We are so happy that Anoyara received the national award. Other children will get inspiration from this,” said Chittopriyo Sadhu, head of Bengal state programme, Save the Children.
As a minor Anoyara herself was taken to Delhi by a racket and made to work as a domestic help. She has not only worked for groups, preventing hundreds of attempted trafficking, but has spread the message to other villages for Save the Children. Anoyara is a second-year student of humanities and plans to continue with her studies after graduation. The sum of Rs 1 lakh she received along with the citation, will either be used to buy a plot of land or kept in the bank as a fixed deposit.
“I will continue with my studies and work for the children at the same time. I am not thinking about marriage. My three sisters were married off when they were still in school. I can decide my own fate and I have told my mother that I am not ready for marriage,” said Anoyara.
It was a life-time experience for the village girl when she visited Delhi on March 7. She was among the 31 women who were honoured for their exemplary work in different fields. On March 8, she went to Rashtrapati Bhawan to receive the award from the President. After that, it was time to have dinner with Maneka Gandhi.
On March 9, she had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. “I told him that I am from Bengal. He not only appreciated the work we are doing, but said that he was with us. I felt so happy and so powerful. What seemed more important than the award is the fact that the President and Prime Minister now know what we do and they stand by us,” said Anoyara.
Anoyara now feels the urge to learn Hindi and English so that she may speak at different forums. “My Hindi is not very good. I need to learn Hindi and English properly. But I was happy to communicate with government officials in Delhi. I have been asked to give proposals for betterment of children in our country,” said Anoyara while showing her certificate.