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Women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari bags Lotus award

May 20, 2015

Dr Ranjana Kumari, a long-time champion for women’s causes, has worked tirelessly to promote women's political participation

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New Delhi: The Fifth Annual Lotus Leadership Awards will honour the work of Dr Ranjana Kumari, the Director of Centre for Social Research, a non-profit organization in India dedicated to empowering women and girls and promoting women's fundamental rights.

Dr Kumari, a long-time champion for women’s causes, has worked tirelessly to promote women's political participation, combat domestic violence, and advocate for gender equality as a leader on the forefront of the women's movement in India.

The Lotus Leadership Awards, instituted by The Asia Foundation, New York recognize outstanding individuals who have made major contributions to the well-being of women and their communities in Asia.

The Asia Foundation’s Lotus Circle, a group of committed individuals, foundations, and corporations working together to advance the rights and opportunities of women across the Asia-Pacific region, hosts this annual event. The earlier recipients of this award include Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Chong Moon Lee, a prominent Asian American philanthropist who funded an anti-trafficking pilot program in Southeast Asia, Sapana Pradhan Malla, a lawyer, advocate of Nepal's Supreme Court, and a leading women's rights activist, etc.

“I am happy to receive this Award. Such awards inspire you to do more for women’s equal rights. They also serve as a reminder that more work needs to be done towards reducing crime and discrimination against women,” said Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research.

Dr Kumari’s foray into social work was initiated by her concern for a dowry death that took place near her home much earlier in 1976. She was shocked to witness the serious crime and as National General Secretary of Mahila Dakshata Samiti took part in a protest with Late Pramila Dandavate, the then president of Mahila Dakshata Samiti and former Member of Parliament and Mrinal Gore, former Member of Parliament. "The ropes with which the young bride had been tied were burnt and scattered around her. It was a clear case of murder, and yet the police was registering it as a suicide."

At that time, she was employed as an assistant professor at Delhi University. But her firm belief that education is not of much use if it not used to change such attitudes, made her take up women's issues with a passion that she has sustained even after decades.  She has also worked in the tribal areas of Bastar and in the villages of Central Uttar Pradesh. This was also the genesis of Centre for Social Research (CSR) that was established with the aim of working not only for women but for everyone who is underprivileged and excluded.

The Asia Foundation will also honour Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a New York Times best-seller about the struggles women face, particularly in developing countries. Her most recent book which is also a documentary series on PBS, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, is a galvanizing narrative on global citizenship and philanthropy.

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