Two Indians, Nileema Mishra, a social activist from Maharashtra and US-trained Indian engineer Harish Hande, were awarded Ramon Magsaysay award for the year 2011.
They are among the six persons in Asia, who were given the award. “The two had helped to harness technologies to empower their countrymen and created waves of progressive change across Asia,” award foundation president Carmencita T Abella announced.
Mishra, 29, has worked for empowerment of women in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra and has formed self help groups of over 2,000 women in 15 villages to provide them livelihood avenues. Before her intervention most of them used to stay indoors and rarely ventured out.
These women now run small household units specializing in manufacturing of quilts, kurtas and pickles. They also run a micro finance institution helping the members at the time of financial crises.
Mishra’s award citation said she was recognised for "her purpose-driven zeal to work tirelessly with villagers in Maharashtra......to address both their aspirations and their adversities through collective action and heightened confidence.”
Harish Hande founded the company SELCO-India with Neville Williams in 1995. A doctorate in energy engineering (solar specialty) from University of Massachusetts (Lowell) and a IIT Kharagpur passout, Hande revolutionised use of solar energy by developing equipment tailor-made for the needs of rural Indians.
The 44-year-old runs his own solar electric light company that has lit up over 1,20,000 households, to emerge as India's leading solar technology firm. “His passionate and pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor .... has encouraged the poor to become asset creators,” the foundation said.