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October 15 is marked as an important day around the world, for it is observed as the international day of rural women. There are numerous inspirational stories about such women, who have devoted their lives to work tirelessly at the grass-root level and bring about a change in the lives of people of the hinterlands.
This being a momentous occasion, we hand-pick stories of eight such women, who, from different parts of the world, are working with single common cause of empowering rural people. There's representation of women from India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Here is the list:
Born in Mingora town of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, this teenaged-activist is the youngest-ever recipient of Nobel Prize. An advocate for human rights and education for women in her native Swat Valley, Malala was only 15 when Talibani gunmen fired three bullets on her from a close range for encouraging other girls, women in the region to study. A fighter that she is, Malala survived and is in London these days. She continues to inspire millions with her work, which she continues to do undeterred by the life-threatening attack.
Chhavi Rajawat studied at Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, Mayo College Girls' School in Rajasthan and Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi. After her MBA from Pune, she worked for brands such as Times of India, Carlson Group of Hotels, Airtel, etc. You must be wondering how can she be bracketed amongst the women working for rural empowerment. But here's the twist. She is the Sarpanch (elected head of the Village Council) in Soda village, Tonk district, Rajasthan. With the objective of utilising her education for the betterment of her people, she gave up a corporate career and is working to empower the people her native place.
Winner of Magsaysay award, which is known as Nobel Price of Asia, Nileema Mishra was only 13 when pained by the condition of women, farmers and children in her village, she decided to develop her village and bring about a change to their lives. After a master's degree in Psychology from Pune University, she could have chosen a better job in city and could have lived a luxurious life but she denied that and persuaded her dream to go back to her village and work.
In the year 2000, she founded the Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan (BNGVN), meaning Rural Science Centre, at Bahadarpur. Today, with her ideology of rural development, she has attracted a team of energetic dedicated associates with faith in her vision and continues to work towards her objective.
Sindhutai Sapkal, also known as Mother of Orphans, is an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her work for raising orphan children. Being an unwanted child, she was nicknamed 'Chindhi' (torn piece of cloth). But today, she has nurtured over 1050 orphaned children and has a grand family of 207 son-in-laws, 36 daughter-in-laws and over 1000 grandchildren. Sindhutai, who has been conferred with many awards by the state government and other institutions, still continues to fight for the next meal.
She worked as a community volunteer in Binga, Zambezi valley, Zimbabwe before her formal employmentas Projects Officer at Zubo Trust, a women's empowerment organization working with Tonga speaking women in Binga. A women's empowerment activist, Abbigail has a desire to see women and girls taking up leadership positions so they find solutions to the challenges they face. Her work in rural Binga, where internet and GPRS connectivity is matching the pace of Zimbabwe's urban centers, is a testimony to her work.
She is an activist and Gandhian, as her Wikipedia page says, founded the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA) in 1972, and served as its general secretary from 1972 to 1996. A lawyer by qualification, Bhatt has triggered several international labour, cooperative, women, and micro-finance movements and has won numerous national and international awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1977), Right Livelihood Award (1984) and Padma Bhushan (1986).
Nauroti, born in a poor Dalit family in Rajasthan's Kishangarh district, rose to become the sarpanch of Hardma village, a land that has bred freedom fighters during India's struggle for Independence. She started as a crusader for proper wages for the labourers when she was working as a stone cutter. And today, her rise to become an epitome of women's power is simply inspirational.