Fighter for women’s empowerment gets Neerja Bhanot award

October 5th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Oct 5 (IANS) Chanda Asani, who walked out of her troubled marriage, educated herself, stood on her own feet and now works for women’s empowerment was conferred with annual Neerja Bhanot award here Sunday.Asani, 51, a resident of Mumbai, was chosen for the award by the jury of the Neerja Bhanot PanAm Trust.

The award is given in the memory of air-hostess Neerja Bhanot, a 23-year-old senior purser of PanAm Airways from here, who died while saving others during a PanAm plane hijack at Karachi Airport Sep 5, 1986.

“The awardee should be an Indian woman who has faced some kind of social injustice with grit and determination and then helps other women in distress,” said Rama Bhanot, managing trustee of the Nirja Bhanot PanAm Trust.

For her act of bravery, Neerja became the youngest recipient of the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest civilian award for bravery, in 1987.

The Neerja Bhanot award comprises of a reward of Rs.150,000, a citation and a trophy.

“I am proud of this award as it represents the spirit of Neerja Bhanot’s will power and strength. This award promotes the possibility of natural fearlessness, which is denied to most women in our country,” Asani said.

“This award will encourage people to overcome personal pains and to reach out to fight social injustice collectively,” she added.

Asani was married off at the age of 15 but soon found that her husband was having a series of love affairs with other women. Asani’s husband also refused to take care of their two children.

Asani, who had passed her higher secondary, was forced to take up odd jobs to sustain the family.

Chanda did not want to go back to her father as she had three unmarried sisters and was afraid that the social stigma of her broken marriage would affect them too.

However, when she was 23, she took a bold decision and left her husband’s house in Mumbai.

She moved to her father-in-law’s house in Adipur, Kutch-Gujarat, with her two sons but she was not able to live in peace there.

Her husband married another woman in Mumbai. When Asani and her sons were ridiculed in Adipur for her husband’s activities, she decided to move back to Mumbai.

Determined to change her destiny, Asani went back to studying, passed her master’s degree in English literature and did a programme in women development studies.

But her problems did not end. Her health failed and she underwent a glaucoma operation and was bedridden with arthritis.

Asani, however, faced the odds, even going to the US to work as a nanny for some time.

But soon she returned to work for women’s empowerment in India.

Since then, the SNDT Women’s University Rural Development Centre in Mumbai has been a part of her life and she has been associated with various projects of women empowerment.

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