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Orissa village girl bags global youth award
October 15, 2004 14:35 IST
When Jyotirmayee Mohapatra mobilised a motley group of girls to assert their rights in a remote village in Orissa's Kendrapara district, little did she realise that the effort would fetch her a global youth award.
Jyotirmayee, who was chosen team leader of the UNICEF-sponsored 'Meena--the girl child' project, was the lone Indian to receive this year's International Youth Action Net Award instituted by International Youth Foundation, USA.
The rustic girl, a post-graduate in political science, had been to Buenos Aires in Argentina to receive the award, which includes a cash component of $20,000. She returned to her native Baradiha village on Friday amidst much jubilation.
The award was presented to her on October 3 in recognition of her path-breaking role in not only protecting and promoting the interest of the girl child but also winning over the members of the community to her cause.
Little girls from Rajkanika block of the district had hogged the spotlight after the launch of the UNICEF-sponsored project in the mid-1990s.
The 'Meenas', as the young volunteers of the project are known, took up several social issues in backward villages spreading awareness among the people, particularly women.
The voice of the hitherto voiceless girls began to be heard in spheres like education, community hygiene, public health, family life, and atrocities on women. They even took up the age-old battle against liquor.
There was a murmur of protest from locals and parents of the girls when the project was launched as they did not take kindly to the idea of girls turning into social activists. But they had to give in to the sheer perseverance and will power of the 'Meenas'.
Madhumita Pati, secretary of Nature's Club, which coordinated the UNICEF project, said girls led by Jyotirmayee had set in motion the unfolding of women's power in places like Rajkanika.
The girls had successfully intervened to remove the deadlock over a road project in Sikudi village. The work had been marred by political interference over award of the contract.
The 'Meena girls' prevailed upon the local people to protest the delay and work began under the watchful eyes of these little children.
After a minor girl was sexually abused in Kandia village, the 'Meena girls' forced the local police to register a case against the accused, she recalled.
"The battle has just begun. There has been a flow of greetings from all my Meena-mates and people have made a beeline for my house ever since I returned home," Jyotirmayee said.
"I dedicate this international recognition to each resident here, but for whose support the Meena volunteers would have remained unknown. The youth award will definitely spur all girl children in this part of the world to fight for the rights of the girl child."
Recalling her experience of the trip to the Argentine capital, Jyotirmayee said except the initial hurdle faced in getting a transit visa from the British high commission in Delhi, the journey was a novel experience for her.
"It was an experience which made me realise to what extent women in rural Orissa lag behind," she said.
"All the 13 award winners, except me, carried their personal laptops to the meet. I was the only one who did not know the basics of computer operation."
Jyotirmayee, who loved the fruit juices served in Buenos Aires, said the award winners and delegates from other countries exuded immense curiosity about India but many expressed concern over reports about 'growing religious fanaticism' in the country.
External Link: International Youth Foundation