Kulandei Francis initiated projects in villages for education and healthcare. Over 22 years, he helped set up 331 irrigation projects and 8,200 self-help groups.
Chennai: India’s Kulandei Francis is one of the six winners of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2012, announced by the organisers in Manila Wednesday.
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, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) said in a statement.
Born to a poor family in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu, Francis was the only one of his siblings to earn a degree.
Sixty-six-year-old Francis began the Integrated Village Development Project in 1979, in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu starting out with small projects: conducting a night school, setting up a first-aid centre.
Later with the help of development organisations, he undertook a micro-watershed programme that, over 22 years, built 331 mostly small check dams benefitting cultivators and their families in 60 villages, said RMAF.
In 1989 IVDP began organising women’s self-help group and today there are over 8,200 groups with 153,990 members with a total savings of around $40 million, a cumulative loan portfolio of around $435 million and a reserve fund of around $8.9 million.
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honour and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president, and is given every year to individuals or organisations in Asia who manifest the same sense of selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.
“The Magsaysay awardees of 2012,” says RMAF president Carmencita Abella, “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.
The awardees will be formally conferred the award during in a ceremony to be held on August.