Natisara Rai, Vidya Rajput win inaugural Kamla Bhasin AwardRai, a forced sex work survivor, was awarded for her advocacy for dignified healthcare, literacy, livelihoods and education. Rajput, a transwoman from India, was recognised for her advocacy for the rights of trans people.
Natisara Rai of Nepal and Vidya Rajput of India have won the inaugural Kamla Bhasin (South Asia) Award for Driving the World towards Gender Equality.
The award is named after Kamla Bhasin, feminist icon, poet, author, educationist and pioneer of the women’s rights movement in South Asia. A five-member jury, chaired by Anu Aga, along with jury members Khushi Kabir from Bangladesh, Binda Pandey from Nepal, Salil Shetty from India and Namita Bhandare from India selected the winners.
According to a press statement issued by National Foundation for India following the award ceremony, Rai was trafficked to India and forced into sex work when she was 13 years old. She was HIV positive at the time of her rescue and was therefore subjected to social boycott and discrimination. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Shakti Milan Samaaj which supports HIV positive women in Nepal to access dignified healthcare, literacy, livelihoods and education.
“I am extremely honoured to receive this recognition named after Kamla didi, who guided us, staying at the forefront of the fight for gender equality,” said Natisara Rai after receiving the award. “I feel more responsible and I will carry forward Kamla didi’s vigorous advocacy for human rights.”
As per the statement, Rajput, a transwoman from Bastar, Chhattisgarh, co-founder of Mitwa, a social organisation established in 2009 to collectivise trans-people, advocate and raise awareness for their rights, including the right to self-identify, right to education, housing, employment, and healthcare, has been able to bring changes in the lives of people and influence state policy.
“Vidya’s work with Mitwa is rooted in her own life of struggle, hardship and discrimination,” the statement reads.
“This award is an encouragement; it will give courage not only to me but also to others like me. That is because until today we (transgender people) only have rejection from our family and society. And getting this honour will give confidence to our community and it will bring a lot of positive changes in future,” said Rajput upon receiving the award.
The award includes a citation and cheque of INR 100,000 each, and it has been jointly instituted by Azad Foundation, iPartner India and National Foundation for India.