“Men need to consider their behavior, because what men consider natural may not be seen the same way by women. Drawing the line means being able to say ‘No,’ because as women, we have a choice.”
This is a quote from Dr. Martha Farrell, a civil society leader and women’s rights activist who tragically died on May 13, 2015 in a terrorist attack. Farrell was in Kabul, Afghanistan providing gender mainstreaming training to Afghan men and women when the hotel she was staying at was targeted by terrorists. The attack killed her as well as 14 other people. Farrell lived and died for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Upon graduating from the University of Delhi in 1981, Farrell began working for Ankur, an NGO that works for women’s empowerment. Then in 1991, she co-founded Creative Learning for Change, an NGO that conducted research on and developed learning material for students, teachers, and facilitators in non-formal settings. In 1996, she joined the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), where she became the Director of PRIA’s program on Gender Mainstreaming in Institutions. From 2005 onwards, she led PRIA’s work on distance education, which is what she was involved in when she died.
After her death, the Martha Farrell Foundation was founded to continue Farrell’s legacy by progressing her pioneering work on women’s empowerment, gender equality, and adult education. The Martha Farrell Award for Excellence in Women’s Empowerment was also created, and the first-ever awards were given out this year!
The Martha Farrell Award is awarded to one individual and one organization. The individual is required to be at least 25-40 years of age and to have worked for the past five to ten years to promote women’s empowerment. This year’s individual award was received by Rakhi Gope for her eleven years of work against human trafficking and child marriages in West Bengal. In her line of work, Gope has been threatened numerous times, but she still risks her life for justice just as Farrell did.
Meanwhile, for an organization to qualify for the award, it is required to be registered in India and to have shown a consistent effort over the past five years to create a gender-equal environment in the workplace. The organization that received the award this year was the Majlis Legal Centre (MLC) in Mumbai. The MLC was started in 1991 as an all-women’s law firm that defended the rights of women. So far, the MLC has defended over 50,000 women in their struggle for justice against domestic and sexual violence.
The recipients received a cash prize of 1.5 lakh rupees, which is around 2,300 USD. The award is co-sponsored by PRIA and the Rizwan Adatia Foundation (RAF), which provides funding and services that address issues related to health, education, and economic disparities.
This award is a wonderful way to honor the life’s work of Martha Farrell by recognizing the people and organizations that strive to sustain her ideas, values, and principles. If you would like to know more about the ways you can get involved with the Martha Farrell Foundation, click here.
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