Ajmer activist wins Neerja Bhanot Award

Womens' rights activist Asha Manwani of Ajmer will be the recipient of the prestigious Neerja Bhanot Award for 2012. She will receive Rs 1.50 lakh, a trophy and a citation at a special award ceremony to be held on December 16 at the UT Guest House.

Manwani is being awarded for her 'grit and determination in helping women after having faced hardships in her life'.

This award is given annually in memory of Neerja Bhanot, who gave up her life while saving the lives of hundreds of passengers on board a Pan Am aircraft, which had been hijacked at Karachi Airport in 1986. Neerja is the youngest recipient of India's highest civilian award for bravery, the Ashoka Chakra.

Manwani, 55, was tormented by her ex-husband for her short height. Manwani was married at the age of 18 in 1976, but her husband started troubling her from the very next day of their marriage over her appearance. She later came to learn that her husband had an illicit relationship with his sister-in-law. In the meantime, Manwani had four children, but her twins died in infancy. In 1984, Manwani had to get an operation done for an ulcer. She had become very weak and weighed only 22 kg. Her husband asked her to move to her parent's home. He then refused to let her come back and sold off all their belongings. Soon, her own family did not support Manwani and threw her out of their house.

Manwani, however, did not cow down to the circumstances and got a job in a factory to make a living for her two children. Despite orders from a family court, Manwani's husband refused to give her compensation. Forced to visit the court numerous times in order to make her husband pay the compensation money, she became conversant with legal procedures. Even though she herself had studied till class 6, she started helping other women.

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