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Martha Farrell Awards for gender equality announced

Apr 07, 2017

Martha Farrell Awards for excellence in women’s empowerment recognize exceptional individuals and organizations.

New Delhi: Dr. Martha Farrell was a passionate civil society leader, renowned and respected in India and around the world for her work on women’s rights, gender equality and adult education. She was among 14 people killed in a terrorist attack on a guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 13, 2015.

She was leading a gender-training workshop with the Aga Khan Foundation in Kabul at the time of the attack. In order to continue Dr Farrell’s legacy, the inaugural Martha Farrell Award for Excellence in Women’s Empowerment were announced in December 2016, to honour gender equality, women’s empowerment and feminism in everyday life. The two winners of the award were announced here today.

The awardees under the two categories, ‘Most Promising Individual’ and ‘Best Organization for Gender Equality’, were selected out of a total of 125 nominations from across India. These included Rakhi Gope of Alipurduar, West Bengal and Majlis Legal Centre from Mumbai respectively. While Rakhi was awarded for her community-based efforts towards preventing child trafficking under extremely testing circumstances in tea estates in North Bengal, Majlis Legal Centre was recognized for enabling women, both within and outside the organization through their excellent institutional practices.

The award has been jointly instituted by Participatory Research in India (PRIA) and Rizwan Adatia Foundation (RAF). The eminent six-member jury, which includes Shabana Azmi, Artist and Social Activist, Kamla Bhasin, Gender Equality Activist, Justice (Retd) AP Shah, Anuradha Das Mathur,Founding Dean, Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, Sushama Nath, and Anshul Tewari, Founder-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz, selected the two winners out of the 125 entries.

“This is the first time that I have received a national level award. It is not just encouraging, but also reinforces within me that what I am doing is right and that I need to continue with determination,” said Rakhi Gope.

Flavia Agnes, Founder and Director of Majlis Legal Centre said, "25 years ago, when we started Majlis Legal Centre as an all-women organisation, we did not know how long we would be able to sustain it. Though the concept has taken its roots today, it continues to pose a challenge. But this award gives it legitimacy and reaffirms our faith in it. I hope it also serves as a small contribution towards actualising Martha Farrell's own dream of mainstreaming gender. Thank you Martha for the life you led, for the choices you made, and for the beliefs you propagated. I hope our organisation will be guided by your ideals, values and principles of women's empowerment and gender justice."

“Martha Farrell Awards are dedicated to the women and men of India, who despite adversities, continue to work towards women’s empowerment and gender equality. We hope to recognize those unrecognized voices who are improving the lives of many others,through their innovation and dedication,” saidDr. Rajesh Tandon, President, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA).

“When I came to learn about Martha last year, I was impressed with her practical ways of dealing with gender discrimination in everyday life, by working with both men and women. I felt that an award to honour her legacy would be the most appropriate to continue her groundbreaking work on women’s empowerment and gender equality”, said RizwanAdatia, Founder and Chairman, RizwanAdatia Foundation.

Rakhi Gope is a resident of a tea estate in Falakata in Alipurduar District of West Bengal, who has been leading the fight against child trafficking within her community, for the last 11 years. She has been working in an extremely difficult context, where she has faced numerous threats to her life. She has rescued hundreds of victims of trafficking and facilitated their rehabilitation by linking them to government-sponsored livelihood and shelter programmes. Rakhi works in over 134 villages, which comprise over 75,000 households, where she has mobilized and sensitized the community, to become alert towards trafficking and prevent it within their families. She has also worked effectively with the local administration and serves on the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

Majlis Legal Centre has defended over 50,000 women litigants all over Maharashtra in their struggle against domestic violence and sexual violence till date. They have an ongoing collaboration with Department of Women and Child Development and The Commissionerate to monitor and ensure the effective implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2005, in Maharashtra. Majlis has employed only women since their inception and currently, they are a team of 35 women lawyers and social activists, who work on issues of domestic violence and sexual violence. To sustain their all-women team, Majlis provides for a very caring and a supportive workplace for all their employees. The employees, who have recently given birth or have young children, are provided work suitable to their needs (part-time/flexi time/work from home). They can also bring their children to office.

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