Manasi Bariha, a 19-yearold girl from Khaprakhol block of Odisha’s Balangir district, found herself in a sticky situation when the owner of the brick kiln in Tamil Nadu where she was working refused to let her go home when the Covid- 19 pandemic struck. She was not alone. All her family members were among 355 others with her who also worked there as Dadan labourers. They too wanted to return home but were detained forcibly. To add to their misery, they were routinely tortured. Manasi, however, clandestinely took the videos of the torture the labourers were subjected to in her mobile phone and forwarded them to few social workers who urged the administration to act. A special government team which was deputed to Tamil Nadu found as many as 6,750 labourers held hostage by brick kiln operators. A tribal girl from Balangir district, Swagatika Kuanr broke the glass ceiling when she won the crown in several fashion shows and was even chosen to act in two short films. A student of Political Science, she has traversed the distance from unheralded Balangir to Bollywood. Pramila Krishani, the daughter of an agricultural labourer in Ganjam district, has been able to brush aside poverty to win ten international medals as a weightlifter having represented India in World, Asian and Commonwealth championships. Manasi, Swagatika and Pramila were among 14 such brave women who were decorated as ‘Women Achievers of Odisha’ (WAO) at a program organised jointly by the Odia daily The Prameya, news channel News7 and Preservation, Propagation and Restoration of Ancient Culture and Heritage of India (PPRACHIN) run by Siksha ‘O’ Anusandhan, a Deemed to be University here ahead of the International Women’s Day. Others honoured with the WAO trophy and citation included Dr. Debasmita Sahu (Education), Dr. Sushama Sudhishree (Agricultural Research), Ms. Basiran Bibi (Literature), Ms. Himani Sahu (Entrepreneur), Ms. Jayanti Behera (Para athlete), Ms. Mamata Sahu (Loco Pilot), Ms. Silka Selony (Snake Rescuer), Ms. Anuradha Panigrahi (Music), S. Swayamprabha (Dance), Ms. Reetarani Jani (Fashion) and Ms. Isha Purohit (Visual Art and Handicraft). They were chosen by a four-member jury from a list of 64 nominations. The jury members included writer Dr. Bhagyalipi Malla, writer and singer, Ms. Chhanda Mishra, singer, Ms. Sushmita Dash and dancer Ms. Ileana Citaristi.
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