Special awards were given to seven young girls from around the world for their courage and achievement to promote the cause of girl’s education and dignity of women.
Among them were two Indians, 21-year-old Ashwini from south Indian city Bangalore and 15-year-old Razia from north Indian city Uttar Pradesh who were awarded with UN Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Award for Education.
Bangalore, July 14 (DHNS) : Bangalore-based Ashwini Angadi, a visually-challenged girl who is the national facilitator of Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices programme, was conferred the “Youth Courage Award for Education” by the United Nations at its Youth Take Over event in New York on Friday, a statement from the organisation said.
Ashwini received the award from former British prime minister and present UN secretary-general’s special envoy for global education Gordon Brown and father of Pakistani youth icon Malala, Ziauddin Yousafzai, on his daughter’s birthday on July 12, when she addressed the United Nations in New York.
“I would like to congratulate you as an inaugural honouree of the UN special envoy for global education youth courage award. Because of your action to stand up for the rights of every girl and boy to go to school and learn, I would like to recognise you as a leader and roll model for youth across the globe,” Gordon Brown has said in a letter to Ashwini in which he compared her with Malala for her courage.
A copy of the letter is available with Deccan Herald. “Your action demonstrates the power of youth in leading the charge against discrimination so that all young people can move from oppression to opportunity through the right to education,” the UN envoy further said in the letter.
Ashwini, 24, who belongs to a poor rural community, was considered incapable of performing her role as a wife and mother due to her disability, making her vulnerable to physical and mental abuse.
“I have faced negative attitude and multiple discrimination all my life,” Ashwini has said in a statement from New York.
“When I was born, my life was at risk because I was disabled and considered a burden to my family. In addition, girls are also discriminated against because they have to give a huge dowry to the bridegroom and therefore cost money. However, I have fought for my rights to get education and without which I wouldn’t be speaking at this event,” Ashwini said in her speech.
“I am honoured and proud to be receiving this award.” She called upon youth across the globe to leave no one behind in the quest for education and has asked society to ensure inclusive education for all.Ashwini’s parents run a small eatery in Bangalore. She had to fight opposition from her parents and teachers to continue her education.
NEW DELHI: Razia Sultana, a teenager from a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, was awarded the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Award for Education on Friday. The award is in recognition of her efforts to help liberate 48 children from child labour bondage and motivate them to go to school. On Friday, the world learnt about Razia’s struggle and courage as she recounted her tale to youth delegates from across the world in New York.
The day, too, has a special significance — it is observed by the UN as Malala Day to highlight and emulate Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai’s fight for education. Malala turned 16 on Friday.
Razia, named after India’s first woman ruler, too, has been fighting an uphill battle at her Nanglakhumba village in Meerut. School education for this class XII student would have remained a distant dream since she had begun working to help her family when she was only five.
Most households in Nanglakhumba village, where inhabitants are predominantly Muslims, eke out a living by stitching footballs. Malala, eldest of two sisters and two brothers, too, stitched footballs with rest of her family members to supplement her factory worker father’s meagre income.
“Education was considered an unnecessary distraction that hurt the family’s income,” said Sher Khan, a Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) activist from a neighbouring village.
In 2005, BBA activists initiated a programme to make the village child-friendly. “We would visit the villages and explain the importance of education and rights of a child,” said Rakesh Senger of the BBA.
But, they met with huge protests. Parents refused to allow the children to give up football stitching and go to school instead. It was more difficult to convince parents about girls’ education. Razia’s father, who is now proud of his daughter, had also refused to send her to school on the same plea.
Gradually, with dogged determination and explaining the importance of education, some children could be weaned away from labouring away at football stitching. It took Razia two years to break the shackles of child labour. Later, a bal panchayat was formed in the village and Razia was elected its head. She went on to become a leader of the National Children’s Parliament.
Little Razia began campaigning in the village for children’s education and their rights. A flurry of complaints by villagers to her father followed. Villagers complained that Razia was a bad influence on their children.
But, the teenager was undeterred. “We were surprised by her indomitable spirit at such a young age,” said Khan.
Her village had no toilets or water pumps. The school building was in shambles. When Razia was elected a panchayat head, she took up such problems with the village panchayat. They could not ignore her for long.
Razia wants to continue studying and fight for children’s education. The UN award has lifted her spirits and boosted her confidence.
Malala’s Pakistani friend Shazia, who was hurt when Taliban shot Malala last year, was also awarded along with girls from Bangladesh, Nepal, Morocco and Sierra Leone.
Ashwini was awarded for fighting against odds to study, then using that education to campaign for other children with disabilities and to enable them to achieve the education they deserve.
She was born with a visual impairment. Ashwini was brought up in a poor rural community in south Indian state Karnataka and fought circumstances to complete her Bachelors degree.
She overcame the odds, achieved great grades and got an excellent job with an IT firm, but gave it up to campaign for other children with disabilities.
Ashwini now works for Leonard Cheshire Disability, a NGO based in Bangalore and she was accompanied to the function by Sherly Abraham, national coordinator of the Leonard Cheshire Disability to the Youth Assembly.
Razia was feted for her contribution to education of children. She is a former child labourer who stitched footballs, struggled and succeeded to pull herself from exploitation to education.
She passed her 11th grade against all odds and now works in her community to help withdraw children from work, and enrol them in schools.
Razia helped 48 children in her community last year to get out of work and join a school.
Over 500 youngsters, mostly young girl leaders from around the world, convened at the UN to support Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s ‘Global Education First Initiative’ and its goals to ensure that all children, especially girls, are in school and learning by 2015.
Young delegates from around the world cheered Malala, who celebrated her 16th birthday and is now the face of child’s right to education.
The Secretary General named Malala’s 16th birthday, ‘Malala Day’, in honour of her heroic stand to ensure education for all.
A series of events were organised to mark ‘Malala Day’ that included youth assembly, beginning of a youth movement to advocate global education and demanding world leaders to make universal, education for every child.
Urmila, 22, of Nepal was awarded for her struggle in the field of girls’ education.
She was sold as a kamalari (child servant) when she was six after her parents traded her to pay off their debts.
She remained trapped for 12 years before she was finally allowed to visit her family when she learnt that the kamalari system was illegal.
Urmila never went back and instead she set up Kamalari Girls’ Freedom Forum and a group that have rescued thousands of girls and allowed them to go back to school.
The others who got the award included Shazia, 15, of Pakistan who was the best friend of Malala and was seated next to her in the school bus that was attacked last October.
The escalating violence has meant it was no longer safe for her to be in Pakistan and she has recently moved to the UK to complete her schooling.
Raouia, 12, from Morocco was given the award for her fight for right to education and her struggle to achieve her goals.
She was bold enough to tell the Moroccan Education Minister, “mind your business” when he visited a Marrakech school and told Raouia she would be better off leaving school and becoming a child bride.
“You, your time would be better spent looking for a man,” he had told her.
But Raouia stood up to him and stayed in school completing her studies.
Her family also protested to the government about how the education minister had betrayed his obligation to promote education.
Keshob, 18, from Bangladesh won the award for her fight against child marriage.
She is the chairman of ‘Wedding Busters’ a youth-led organisation that runs child marriage free zones in Bangladesh.
Aminata, 20, from Sierra Leone received the honour for tirelessly campaigning to ensure that children in her country affected by conflict are able to get education.