By Purushottam Nayak
Bhubaneswar: Anna Kujur, who fights against human trafficking in Odisha, eastern India, was among the first winners of awards given by the women council of the Catholic bishops for meritorious service.
Ten lay women and a Catholic nun received the awards during the national meeting of the council held at the Xavier University in Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha.
As many as 45 women from 14 regions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) attended the September 30-October 4 meet that addressed the theme, “Role of Women in making the family.”
Sister Talisha Nadukudiyil, national secretary of the CBCI women’s council, said the awardees include three Catholic women, who exemplified the council’s mission in eliminating gender discrimination and upholding women empowerment.
“The purpose of the award is to identify and felicitate the service achievements and meritorious contributions of Catholic women in the Church and society,” the Sisters of the Destitute nun explained.
The council also chose one woman from each region for the ‘best leader’ award.
Sister Nadukudiyil also said the criteria for selection were Catholic women’s work at grassroots level to eliminate gender discrimination and promote women’s empowerment.
Besides Anna Kujur, the national award winners were R Arokia Mary Lucia from Tamil Nadu, Rosakutty Abraham from Kerala.
Those selected for the best leaders from regions were Corrine Antoniette Rasquinha (Karnataka), Jane Ancil Francis (Kerala), Gloria R. Marak (Meghalaya, northeast), Goreti Minj (Sambalpur Odisha), C. Agnes Glory (Tamil Nadu), Astrid Lobo Gajiwala (Mumbai, West) and PulgenciaToppo (Bagdogra, West Bengal).
Sister Lilly Francis of Nagpur won a special award.
Anna Kujur, an eleventh grader and mother of two sons and two daughters, has so far rescued around 20 women and girls from traffickers with the police help. She has formed committee in 12 villages to educate people on forestland issues. She founded Sundargarh Adivasi Vikash Manch (forum for the development of Sundergarh tribes). Through her leadership many officers were suspended or dismissed for corruption. She has also opened training centers for school dropouts.
“I thank the CBCI Council for women for the acknowledgement,” Anna Kujur said after receiving the award.
Rosakutty Abraham from Kerala said she has received many awards in life, but the latest one makes her extremely happy since it was an acknowledgement from the Church for her contribution to women in the Church and society.
She has received 21 awards at national, state, district and diocesan levels for offering free food, shelter and counseling to the needy. She currently holds 13 positions in different bodies of Church and society.
P Arockia Mary Lucia, the awardee from Tamil Nadu, offers legal help in women facing violence. She has dealt with about 400 cases of atrocities against women, bonded labor, domestic violence, and honor killing. She has formed “Federation of Atrocity against Women. She also educates 12 rape survivors and 22 poor Dalit girl children.
The meeting was attended by CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, chairperson of the council Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas of Gurgaon, and Bishop Kishor Kumar Kujur of Rourkela, regional chairperson of Odisha Women Commission.
Others were Fathers Prasanna Pradhan, vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, and Alwyn Rodrigues, prefect of the Xavier University of Bhubaneswar. National secretaries of India’s three ritual Churches also attended the meeting. They were Sister Lilly Francis of Latin Rite, Delcy Luckachan of Syro Malabar and Sara Mani Kuriakose, of Syro Malankara.
Bishop Mascarenhas commended the women’s council for its efforts to empower women in society. “Imitate the biblical women like Mary who trusted God right from the time of conception till Calvary and make positive contributions to society today,” he urged the participants.
Bishop Barnabas said he appreciated women’s effort to bring about changes in society. “May you become the ambassadors of change in society,” the Syro-Malankara prelate said in his keynote address.