Published on: 5:13 pm, March 9, 2016 Story By: Matters India Reporter
Sr Lucy Kurien receives the award from the President of India
New Delhi: A Catholic nun was among 20 women the Indian president honored on March 8 for outstanding social service.
Sister Lucy Kurien, who has been working among the destitute for nearly 20 years, received the Nari Shakti Puraskar (Women’s Power Award) at a special function in Rashtrapati Bhawan on the International Women’s Day.
The award, set up in 1991, carries a cash prize of 100,000 rupees and a citation. It honors individual women for their exceptional achievement. The federal Ministry of Women and Child Development selects the awardees.
The award recognizes the spirit of courage of a woman in difficult circumstances both in her personal and professional life. The award also recognizes the pioneering contribution of an individual in empowering women and raising women’s issues. The 2012 awardee was the Delhi gang rape victim Nirbhaya, who was honored posthumously.
Sr Kurien was the only Catholic to receive the award this year. She started Maher (Marathi for my mother’s home) in 1997 at Pune to shelter abandoned children, women and those with mental problems.
Speaking on the occasion Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said, “Literally translating to ‘women power’, this award specifically recognizes unsung heroes who spearhead change and demonstrate tangible impact in their immediate communities.”
She commended the awardees for overcoming “seemingly insurmountable obstacles through courage and foresight to bring about positive change they wish to see in the world. Each awardee is an inspiration, does India proud, and is a trailblazer in her innovation.”
Other awardees included playwright Jyoti Mhapsekhar from Maharashtra, founder of Stree Mukhti Sanghatana (movement for women liberation) and Haryana’s Sujata Sahu, who has been working on education in Ladakh. Delhi based Sumita Ghosh, who runs Rangsutra, a social enterprise that seeks to bring socio-economic development and inclusive growth in rural India, was also honored.
There were 15 individual awardees, including environmentalists Basanti Devi from Uttarakhand and Suparna Baksi Ganguly from Karnataka, agri-researcher Saurabh Suman, triathelte and comedian Vasu Primalani, Rajasthan based freelance journalist Meena Sharma.
Among the organizations who were felicitated included Angadipuram gram panchayat for its work on women empowerment, state of Haryana for improving child sex ratio, Jagori for tackling sexual harassment, Breakthrough for spreading awareness on ending violence against women.
Sister Kurian, a member of the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod, has received other awards too. The “Vanitha,” the largest circulation women magazine in India, has chosen her for this year’s Woman of the Year Award, which also carries a cash prize of 100,000 rupees.
Maher is an interfaith and caste-free organization based near Pune with branches in Jharkhand and Kerala.
The NGO offers education to children and helps slum dwellers to improve their conditions. It has so far rehabilitated about 4,000 women and more than 2,000 children from the streets.