13 year old Congress Kanwar from Rajasthan is one of the 22 children selected (four of them posthumously) for the Indian National Bravery Awards to be presented on 26th January 2008.
Brought up in the backward Dug Tehsil of Jhalawar, Congress stood up against family and tradition to fight off her marriage as a child. When a prospective groom’s family arrived at her home, she threatened to dial 100 and call the police – a helpline she learnt of when she visited a police station on a school trip.
Congress, from a family of three brothers and four sisters, was always told her destiny was not school but life with her in-laws. When UNICEF opened a basic school, a “pathshala”, where children from her neighborhood enrolled, Congress was told by her mother she could not go to school to avoid housework.
Congress continued to peep enviously through school windows until she persuaded her mother that she would continue to do all the housework if allowed to go to school. She began to wake up at four in the morning to go through her chores before rushing to the Prabhat school, run by UNICEF.
School changed her life in more ways than one. Her school visit to the police station proved to be an eye opener. Her successful fight against her impending marriage took Congress to Berlin where she addressed German Experts and lawmakers at the presentation of the “State of the Children Report”. She also spoke at the recent presentation of the “State of the World’s Children Report 2007” in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
The young girl who did not even have time to comb her hair before school is now among the four girls and 18 boys nominated for the National Bravery Awards 2007 to be presented by the Prime Minister.
Kabita and Amarjeet from Haryana, who saved many schoolmates from drowning when their school bus fell into the Yamuna Canal, have been selected for the Bharat Award.
14 year old Lalrempuii from Mizoram will receive the Geeta Chopra Award posthumously for fighting valiantly till her death against her assailant.
Six year old Yuktarth Shrivastav from Chattisgarh , who saved his sister from stray dogs is nominated for the Sanjay Chopra Award.
12 year old Rajpalli Vamsi saved five girls from drowning in the Nagavalli river.16 year old Boney Singh from Manipur rescued two girls, and 15 year old Amol Aghi lost his life chasing robbers. All three have been selected for the Bapu Gayadhani Award.
Other valiant children nominated for the Award include Sunil Kumar P N ( Karnataka), Raveendra Haldar, Ravi Jhariyam, Awadhesh Kumar Jharia, Manas Nishad (Chhattisgarh), Vishnu C S, Bijin Babu (Kerala), Kavyampalli Rajkumar, Pinjari Chinigi Sab (Andhra Pradesh), Meher Legha (New Delhi) Ankit Raj, late Abhishek, Suraj (Haryana), and Subhash Kumar (Uttar Pradesh).
Gita Sidhartha, President of the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) has announced that deserving awardees will be given financial assistance by the ICCW until they complete their schooling.