Every year on International Women’s Day, the Uttar Pradesh Government commemorates the 8th of March by honouring over 90 women with the ‘Rani Lakshmi Bai Bravery Award’ to celebrate the indefatigable spirit of these exemplary women from different walks of life. The awards are handed over in the presence of the Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, along with the Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Smt. Dimple Yadav. Last year, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 2016, the chief minister also inaugurated the ‘Asha Jyoti Canteen’ (managed by the Mahila Sahayata Samuh) and renamed the road from 1090 Chauraha to Taj Hotel in Lucknow as ‘Mahila Asha Jyoti Lane’. The UP Government also promised to continue saving precious lives of women and children through the 108 Ambulance Service.
This comes right on the heels of multiple initiatives towards women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation launched by the Uttar Pradesh Government, such as the Samajwadi Pension Yojana, which replaced the Rani Lakshmi Bai Pension Yojana (and the primary beneficiary under this scheme was the female head of the household).
Around ninety women were conferred with this award, among them being Volleyball player-cum-Mountaineer Arunima Sinha, the first female amputee to scale the height of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on the planet. Losing her leg in 2011 after being pushed off a train by thieves did not deter this brave heart, and she accomplished what she had set out to achieve by scaling mountains- Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, among others, with the help of her prosthetic leg. She now plans to open a sports academy, the “Chandra Shekhar Azad Viklaang Khel Academy” (4). Ria Zehra is another such individual, who has triumphed over physical handicaps and conquered her dreams. This 7-year-old heroic girl, who was born partially blind, defied all odds and is now well-versed with the Bhagwat Gita.
Among the awardees are also valiant individuals who have actively worked towards achieving gender equality, bringing about societal inclusion of the marginalised classes and promoting women’s rights. Madhuri Singh of Shankarpur village is one such example (2). For the past two decades, she has worked towards the empowerment of women belonging to marginalised classes, organised them into Self Help Groups (SHGs), and assisted them in attaining financial freedom. “I am satisfied with my work, and want to expand the network of SHGs further to involve more women in economic activities”, says Madhuri, a veritable champion of women’s rights.
The Chief Minister also distributed relief grants to the fearless survivors of acid attacks, who, along with countless NGOs, are collectively campaigning for an appropriate legal framework to address acid attack cases with speed and efficiency. Applauding the indomitable spirit of these dauntless warriors, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav commented, “Each one of you has a story to tell; each of you is a role model.”
With their unbreakable spirit and a desire to reach the zenith of success, the women in Uttar Pradesh are in a league of their own. With such immense support from the Government, it won’t take them too long before they start leading the community. We all need to take a leaf out of the Uttar Pradesh Government’s book by celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and by pledging to put an end to gender-based violence and discrimination.