Dr Asha Pande (RU professor), Chhavi Rajawat (Sarpanch, Soda village) and Manju Devi Yadav (coolie) are among the 112 women honoured by the President with the inaugural First Ladies Award. The awards - instituted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development - were given to women who are the first ones to set a milestone in their respective fields.
Professor Asha Pande - Promoter of French Language and Culture in Rajasthan
Founder-director of Rajasthan University's Master in European Studies Programme, has promoted French language and culture in the state for more than four decades. On being conferred the award, Dr Pande said, "It's a historic moment for me. All those who have been awarded have broken barriers in some way or the other. Despite all challenges,we have fought our battles and paved way for the future generation."
Dr Pande, who comes from a humble background tells us that she was the youngest of her nine siblings."When I was born,the birth of a girl was not celebrated but my mother loved me and was sure that someday I will make her proud," she said.
For her achievements in academics and services rendered in the promotion of foreign languages, Dr Pande was also bestowed with the highest civilian award of France, Chevalier Dans L'Ordre National De La Legion D'Honneur by the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009.Apart from being a Professor of French Literature, Pande has been a theatre actor and an activist during her university days in Delhi.She also became the first Indian woman to be elected to the executive committee of International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR), a UNESCO organisation in 2004.
Chhavi Rajawat - Jaipur's First Woman Sarpanch
Chhavi Rajawat set a milestone in 2010 when she was elected as the first MBA Sarpanch of Soda village, Tonk. Chhavi, an alumna of Lady Sri Ram College, is now serving her second tenure as the Sarpanch. She said, "It feels great to be recognised by the ministry. I feel motivated and now I am even more determined to carry on with my work and find more ways to bridge the gap between the rural and urban India."
Fondly called as Bai Sa in her village, Chhavi had also represented India at the 11th Info-poverty World Conference held at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan and talked at length about the struggles developing rural India is facing. On a mission to make her village better, she is mainly focussing on skewed sex ratio,gender disparity and other such problems. "I hope this award changes the perception towards rural India. This will encourage more people to come forward and work for the rural masses and change the attitude of grass root polity and bureaucratic system," she said.
Manju Devi Yadav - North Western Railways' First Woman Coolie
Another achiever is a young coolie Manju Devi Yadav, who works at Jaipur Railway Station. She said, "It was great meeting people from different walks of life.They all have done great work in their respective fields."Talking about working in a male-dominated field, she says, "My husband passed away in 2012, leaving behind no money. I had to raise three children on my own. I had no choice but to step into his shoes. I took his badge and started carrying the baggage of the passengers."
She adds,"I want my kids to study and have a good future. I believe education is the key to be successful and I want my kids, too, to understand that."