Maya Award

Indian American Maya Vishwakarma has been honored with the Best Social Entrepreneur Short Film award, receiving the accolades at the World International Film Festival. (photo provided)

An Indian American woman from Fremont, Calif., was recently honored with an award for her socially-conscious documentary.

Maya Vishwakarma Sept. 21 was the recipient of the Best Social Entrepreneur Short Film award during the World Independent Film Festival for her documentary, “Swaraj Mumkin Hai.”

Vishwakarma, according to a news release, from her poverty-stricken upbringing in India, was determined to make an impact. She is known as the “padwoman” of India as she has started a crusade to educate remote village adolescent girls and women folks about menstrual hygiene, it said.

Additionally, she started a small unit for manufacturing and supplying sanitary pads at a throw-away price, the release said.

Showcasing a case-study of a small village Baghuwar in Narsingpur district of Madhya Pradesh, the documentary was made by Vishwakarma in 2016 to inspire other villages of India to promote local self-governance.

“I had no idea that such a village existed in my own district and I visited it in 2014. This village fulfills Gandhiji's dream of empowering villages for the development of the country," said Vishwakarma in a statement.

"My idea behind making the film was to inspire youth to take up such projects if they really wanted to make India a developed country. Why do we need to be so dependent upon the government to make things happen when we have the power to being about a change?" she asked.

The credit for the development of the village goes to Surendra Rajput, a visionary who proposed the idea of not conducting panchayat elections, to save money and use it for the development of the village, the release said.

"Thirty years ago, Rajput came up with a plan to improve the standard of living of villagers. He decided to use the money spent on panchayat elections to build the village and seek donation from residents. Those who could not give money, paid in kind by giving their time and efforts for the upliftment of the village school, opening up of an Ayurveda medical center and various other development projects," she said.

The highlight of the villages was the rainwater harvesting system due to which the groundwater level of the village has gone up. One can easily find water at 15-20 feet, she said.

A joyous Vishwakarma said that if youth take up the challenge of building villages in a sustainable manner, the country will improve in a matter of years, according to the release.

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