The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on Wednesday honoured 55-year-old Bandla Susheela with the Best Anganwadi Worker award for preventing over five child marriages and reviving two toddlers from acute undernourishment last year. Susheela has dedicated 26 years of her life to upholding child rights in Enkoor village of Khammam, a district notorious for rampant child marriages (30 per cent of girls here are married off before 18 years as per census 2011) and one of the worst school dropout rates in the State.
Recently, when the parents of a minor girl decided to get her married off despite multiple counselling sessions, Susheela got an FIR filed.“She has been awarded as not a single case of child marriage has been reported for the last five years in her anganwadi centre’s limits. Even in other important criteria such as covering pregnant women under Arogya Laxmi, she has a remarkable track-record,” noted the district welfare officer of Khammam.
Anganwadi workers are judged based on six criteria including pre-school education, immunization, health check ups and referral service. They are nodal service providers for most Women Development and Child Welfare Department schemes.
Susheela had over 12 pregnant women, 16 lactating women and 100 children between the age of 3 months and 5 years under her care in 2018. The department also appreciated her efforts in preventing children from going to work before the age of 14 years.
“Child marriage is a big concern, but now people have begun to fear the law. Child labour is another pressing concern.We had to rescue over five children last year,” said Susheela, who last year enrolled six girls who had dropped out before Class 10 for tailoring training.
Susheela’s daughter, who is a techie at IBM Hyderabad, told Express she is proud of her mother’s achievement, “She is a Class 10 dropout and so could not find work easily, so she became an anganwadi teacher to help many students have a better future,” Mamtha B said.