priyanka-honored-by-htPriyanka Bharati of Kanchanpur Kuiya village of Maharajganj district of Eastern UP, who hogged headlines last year for refusing to live with her in-laws as they did not have a toilet in the house, has now bagged the Hindustan Times Woman-2013 Special Award for her active and successful participation in a sanitation campaign. She is a Sulabh sanitation missionary, engaged in motivating innocent rural folk to opt for the construction of toilets in or near their houses instead of going for open defecation.

The HT Award was presented to Priyanka Bharati by Social Activist, Hon’ble Ms. Shabana Azmi, at a function attended by Hon’ble Ms. Dimple Yadav, MP, wife of the U.P. chief minister, Hon’ble Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Mr. Wajid Khan, singer and composer, at a glittering function held at Taj Lucknow, on April 6, 2013.

Hon’ble Ms. Azmi specially praised Priyanka for her outstanding work. She said Priyanka had not only won recognition for herself, but had also set an example and proved women coming from lower strata of society are second to none in their dedication to work and for striving for their place of honour under the sun in our society still clinging to the obnoxious caste system.

Last year soon after her marriage, Priyanka, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste family, had run away from her marital home, when she discovered there was no toilet in the house. She was earlier given a cash award of Rs. 2 lakh by Sulabh International which also built an ultra modern toilet for her. Two other women from Eastern U.P. – Kumari Jyoti and another girl also named Priyanka – were honoured by Sulabh with a cash award of Rs. 2 lakh each – in appreciation of their demand for toilets as a pre-condition for their wedded life in their in-laws’ houses. Modern toilets were also built by Sulabh in the houses of their in-laws.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation Movement, who had taken time off to attend a special function in Vishnupur Khurd village in district Maharajganj, where these three women were honoured, had described them as pioneers of social change for it was not easy for girls, especially living in rural areas, to defy custom and tradition and raise the banner of revolt merely for the sake of a toilet. Dr. Pathak was very happy that the Priyanka Bharati discovered by Sulabh for guts and determination had another feather added to her cap by winning the HT Award.

The other award winners at the HT function included Ms. Rekha Chauhan for her contributions for the empowerment of women in the interiors of East U.P., Bihar border areas. She now leads the Mahila Swarozgar Samiti, a group of 10,000 underprivileged rural women. The task had not been easy ride to fame for Rekha for she had to live with Dalits and win their confidence and trusts for months together. Also among the winners was a ten-year-old girl, who had displayed a streak of boldness in her decision to lodge a complaint with the police against a 25-year-old man who had assaulted her in Bulandshahar, despite initial apathy to her plight displayed by all, including the women police staff at the police station.