Sarojini Naidu Prize 2009

Sarojini Naidu Prize Ceremony Honors Indian Media

On October 2, 2009, The Hunger Project (THP)-India hosted the ninth annual Sarojini Naidu Prize ceremony.

The Honorable Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Shashi Tharoor (featured in photo to the left), was the event’s principal guest of honor. Social activist Ms. Aruna Roy and Director General of Doordarshan (India’s leading national television network) Ms. Aruna Sharma, also attended as special guests of honor. They were joined by twenty-six elected women leaders from nine states. The prize was awarded to three journalists working in print media, and a Special Jury Citation was also awarded this year.

Ms. Rita Sarin, Country Director for THP-India, welcomed the guests of honor to a packed auditorium. Guests included senior bureaucrats, heads of bilateral and multilateral organizations, as well as representatives from civil society organizations and the media. Ms. Sarin talked about the cynicism that prevailed when THP first started working with elected women representatives in the lowest tiers of rural self-government. Today, she said, the world has acknowledged that women who get involved in governance have changed the paradigms of development. She also welcomed the government’s recent decision to raise the quota for women representatives in panchayats (local village councils) to fifty percent.

In his address, Dr. Shashi Tharoor stressed the need to educate girls and shared experiences from his time in the UN. He also spoke of the role of the all-women contingent of Indian peacekeeping forces in Liberia and how they serve as powerful role models in a country that had been torn apart by civil war. He urged the Indian media to report responsibly and be aware of their ethical obligation to the nation.

One of the architects of the Right to Information Act, Aruna Roy, highlighted the struggle of elected women leaders in fulfilling their mandate. She spoke of the hurdles faced by women at every turn in an archaic feudal system that denies them an equal voice and does not accept their authority as political entities. She also spoke of the remarkable role the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to Information Act are playing in changing the face of rural India.

Aruna Sharma, the first woman Director General of Doordarshan, spoke of the need to utilize the programs and funds put in place by the government. She called upon elected women leaders to take full advantage of the increasing allocation of funds to bodies of local governance. Ms. Sharma emphasized the role of the media as a channel between the government, grassroots leaders and civil society.

Minakshi Tamta, the Pradhan (leader) of Bhumiyadhar Panchayat in Nainital District of Uttarakhand, urged all elected women representatives to address the pressing issue of the non-availability of health services, educational facilities, roads and other infrastructure.

The special guests of honor distributed Sarojini Naidu prizes to the following journalists:

Category: English
Koila: The Only Model Gram Panchayat in Dakshina Kannada
City Herald, July 26, 2009

Category: Hindi
Women Silence their Critics
Rajasthan Patrika, June 30, 2009

Category: Other Indian Languages – Tamil
Panchayat Women Open Eyes to Education
Dinamani, April 26, 2009

Special Jury Citation: Marathi
Power Play
Prahar Daily, July 17, 2009

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