Manila: An Indian grassroot activist whose pioneering community initiatives in Tamil Nadu empowered thousands of rural women to form micro enterprises and break the poverty spiral, is among this year's six winners of the prestigious Magsaysay award.
Kulandei Francis, 65, whose Integrated Village Development Project in Krishnagiri has helped changed the lives of many in Tamil Nadu villages was adjuged the winner, along with other activists from Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
Francis is being recognised for "his visionary zeal, his profound faith in community energies, and his sustained programmes in pursuing the holistic economic empowerment of thousands of women and their families in rural India," said a statement from the Magsaysay Foundation.
Francis, who himself came from a modest background, attained a graduate degree from Annamalai University, and started the IVDP in 1979, and over the years has expanded its reach in the state.
It helped establish self help groups for women that supported poverty-stricken women engage in group activities and start micro enterprises, create savings accounts, and secure reliable loans.
Through education and community activities, thousands of women have been able to help their families wriggle out of poverty.
At present there are over 8,000 self-help groups across the three districts of Krishnagiri, Dharmpuri and Vellore, supported by IVDP.
Both Francis's wife and daughter play prominent roles in running his organisation.
Other winners of this year's award are Chen Shu-Chu from Taiwan, Romulo Davide from the Philippines, Syeda Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh, Yang Saing Koma from Cambodia and Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto from Indonesia.
RMAF President Carmencita Abella said: "The Magsaysay awardees of 2012 are six remarkable individuals, all deeply involved in creating sustainable solutions to poverty and its accompanying disempowerment - whether in the forests or on farmlands, in exploitative industries or in inadequate education".
"Working selflessly in unpretentious yet powerful ways, they are showing how commitment, competence, and collaborative leadership can truly transform millions of individual lives and galvanise progressive community action," Abella said.
The winners will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during a ceremony on August 31.
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honour, and is named in the honour of the third Philippine President.