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India’s top magazine selects nun for annual women award 

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi: Vanitha (woman), the largest circulated magazine in India, has selected a Catholic nun for its prestigious Woman of the Year Award.

The fortnightly magazine published in various Indian languages announced the annual award on March 7, the eve of the International Women’s Day.

The magazine, a publication of the Malayala Manorama newspaper group, said it chose Sister Sudha Varghese, for the 100,000-rupee award in recognition of her meritorious service among the lowest among the Dalit groups in Bihar, eastern India.

The 68-year-old nun, who insists to be addressed only as Sudha, is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame congregation based at Patna, capital of Bihar state. She has focused on educating Musahar people, especially girls, for the past three decades.

Sister Suddha left her teaching job to work full time for the socioeconomic advancement of Musahar (literally rat eaters), who lived like slaves under the oppressive caste system. The nun’s work has helped end child marriage prevalent among them and check their exploitation by higher caste people, the magazine says.

She founded “Nari Gunjan” (Women’s Voice) as an umbrella organization in 1987 to coordinate her multilayered activities such as education, advocacy and welfare schemes. Her organization coordinates 1,020 Self Help Groups for Musahar women in Patna and Saran districts. Each group, comprising 10 to 15 members, educates its members about their rights and helps them become financially self-reliant through thrift societies.

She has so far helped some 2,250 girls to graduate from high school or skill training centers.

Sr Sudha with Musahar women

Sudha’s work among the low caste women, braving threats even to her life, has won her several awards. In 2006, the Indian government presented her Padma Shree (lotus honored), the fourth highest civilian award in the country.

The same year, she was chosen for the Social Lifetime Achievement Award from Godfrey Philipps and the Ideal Village Award from the Bihar government in 2008. She became the Pride of Bihar in 2009. Four years later, she received the Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Award for Education in Bihar. She won the Icon of Bihar Award in 2016.

The Bihar government appointed her vice chairperson of the state Minority Commission in 2012 for three years. She represented Bihar at National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and coordinated a two-year study on “violence of Dalit women” in 2005. She is a member of the National Dalit Human Rights Campaign since 1998, the Bihar unit People’s Union for Civil Liberties and National Alliance of Women.

Vanitha, which awards people in various fields, had average qualifying sales of 687,915 copies in December 2013, according to India’s Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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18 Responses to India’s top magazine selects nun for annual women award

  1. Arputha paul rani

    Congratulations dear sr sudha for your committed services

  2. Bro. Mathew Montfort/Chulaparambil

    I have known Sr. Sudha from 1974 and am a witness of her dedication and hard work for up-lifting the life and status of the Musahar people. She is an amazing lady of guts and focus. She has gone through ups & downs of life in her dedicated life and most of the years without much ‘organized’ support from her own congregation and sisters around. I salute this brave and courageous woman! May Sudha grow in glory and recognition. Well done Sr. Sudha. I am proud to have known you and be associated with you. God bless you in the years to come.
    Bro. Mathew Montfort/Chulaparambil,

  3. Fr.Joseph Anithottam

    Hearty congrats to Sr.Sudha on the great achievement of getting the Vanitha award for outstanding service. It is your dedication and commitment that led you to work among the neglected and downtrodden people in the society. On this occasion please accept my congrats, Felicitations and Prayerful wishes in all your future endavours for uplift of the socially neglected persons. May your work be an example for many more persons to emulate in rendering service to the poor. May God Bless you abundantly. Fr.Joseph Anithottam. Visakhapatnam.

  4. Bishop Raja Rao SMM

    Dear Sr Sudha
    I am so pleased to hear about the honour bestowed on you. Please accept my congratulations on behalf of my diocese Vijayawada. May your example overflow to other parts of India.
    Bishop Raja Rao of Vijayawada

  5. Jessie saldanha SCN

    Very proud of you Sr sudha. ..It truly takes such indomitable courage to leave behind the complacent, cozy 4 walls to dare to such things to bring about a systemic change. We need many more women religious like have made us proud. God’s choicest blessings on you and all your undertakings. I am also trying to do something similar in this part of most neglected part of North East Karnakata. It is in shorapur taluka in yadagiri district. A rock bottom district which has very low HDI. It’s known as second Bihar.
    Let us support our initiatives. .ventures through our prayers.
    God bless you Sr sudha for such great humanitarian service

  6. saleth mary

    Congratulations to you Sr.Sudha( Sudha) for tirless service towards the upliftment of the poor girls. Keep up your good work. Do the will of God and you will transform many people’s livesas you have done in the past.

  7. Claudette Miranda dsp

    Congrats Sr. Sudha for your humanitarian services to the Musahar children of Bihar.
    Great work!

  8. Francis Rosario

    Congratulations. Those who dedicate their lives for d uplift of marginalized r recognised n appreciated one day or d other. U r special. May God abundantly bless u. Fr. Sunil

  9. Sr Linchu Lukose

    Congratulations Sr Sudha you are an inspiration.

  10. Johnson SJ

    Congratulations Sr.Sudha. Extremely happy and proud to know about your services to the poorest of the poor. May God grant you strength and courage to continue the good work.

  11. Sr Surekha B.S.

    Amazing! Hearty Congratulations Sr Sudha!

  12. fr.p.a.james sdb

    Congrats to Sr.Sudha and many such Angels of love! Its truly amazing that any one can do good if one so desires… let Sr.Sudha’s example encourage many because the world still stands in need of liberation.

  13. Fr. John Vattamattom SVD

    Hearty Congratulations to sr. Sudha Varghese and thanks to Vanitha for the recognition given to Sudha the DIDI of the Musaphar people of Bihar. Certainly this is a “arhathayute,angeekaram”
    I personally feel proud of her for knowing her for the past several years besides being a cousin of her.May God continue to bless her and her beloved Musahar people.

  14. Fr Joe Mannath SDB

    Hearty congratulations, Sr Sudha Varghese. We feel proud of your humanity, courage and generosity. May India and the Indian Church have many more women religious of your calibre and vision. May many other religious choose to move into the areas of greatest need and neglect, as you did.
    Congrats from me, and from the National CRI

  15. George Jose

    Recognition for good works is encouraging. Congrats to Sr. Sudha, though she does not need any further recognition. Through these awards it is her subjects that are being recognized.I have a personal reason to feel good: I was part of the pioneering team (along with Luke Edamana and Varghese Payyappilly) that moved into Jamsoth Musahar village near Khagoul, Danapur in 1978. We were there as Jesuit Novices on a month long village experience under Fr. Joe Velamkunnel. We had joined Fr. Philip Manthara of Patna Jesuits who was opening up the rural Bihar into Adult Education scheme. That the Mushars have moved up so high, THANKS to Sr. Sudha and her team is definitely a matter of great pride.

  16. Dr Roy Chwdhury

    Amazing. Kudos to south Indian VANITHA for hunting out outstanding Catholic nun from remote Eastern India.

  17. Dr.Cajetan Coelho

    Sister Sudha Varghese is an inspiration. God bless.

  18. Vincent

    Congratulations to Sr Sudha Varghese.

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