Special: Ashwini: Our own Malala

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Bengaluru: She may not be physically able to see but Ashwini Angadi's inner eye has taken her this far. The gritty 24 year old resident of Seshadri­puram, awarded the the 'Youth Courage award for Education' from the UN at an event held to commemorate 'Malala Day' at UN headquarters in New York, knows the only magic formula that can take her and others like her even further, is education.
“Good education should be a basic human right," she said, on her arrival back home in Bengaluru on Monday.  Only one of seven people picked from across the world "for showing exemplary leadership and perseverance," the young woman who more than fills the courageous Pakistani Malala Yousafzai's shoes, has let nothing stop her.
A PUC rank holder from NMKRV College, she was also a rank holder from Maharani’s College for Arts where she did her degree course. Clearly, she's a role model to all her peers, sight-impaired or otherwise.
The girl who can ‘see’ tomorrow
A visual impairment hasn't stopped 24 year old Ashwini Angadi from reaching for the skies. She returned home to Bengaluru on Monday, from the UN headquarters in New York City, just having received the 'Youth Courage award for Education' from the United Nations at an event held to commemorate 'Malala Day'  She was one of seven young women from around the world.
Born into a poor family in rural Karnataka, Ashwini grew up amid discrimination, from everybody around her. Despite overwhelming odds, she managed to scrape together an education, which she now uses to help people with disabilities, trying to bring them the same opportunities she worked so hard to create for herself.
"Good education," she says, "is the greatest weapon we have to achieve social and economic independence. Every girl, especially those who are disabled, should be given an education, so they can live in mainstream society. Good education should be a basic human right."
Bringing laurels not just to the State but to the nation itself, Ashwini is one among the seven recipients who received the award from Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education on July 12. The award was given to young women who have shown exemplary leadership qualities and supported the campaign of the right to education, often in adverse circumstances.
Ashwini studied in a special school until Grade 10, joining a regular college for her PUC and her degree. Despite having an impairment in both eyes, Ashwini finished her twelfth standard as a rank holder from NMKRV college and graduated from Maharani's College for Arts, something most 'normal' students are unable to do.
For the last seven months, Ashwini has been working as the National Facilitator for the Young Voices Project, part of the Leonard Cheshire Disability (which has its headquarters in London) in Bengaluru, which enables young, specially-abled youths to fight for their rights. The Young Voices groups are also present in Delhi, Mumbai, Ranchi and Bhopal. "I do not have time for myself, " said Ashwini. “I'm constantly travelling to these places to counsel disabled youths and help them get an education.”
The award came as a surprise and Ashwini is overjoyed. In college, she would record lectures and listen to them over and over at home, trying to remember them. "I requested the authorities at Maharani College to provide Braille books and screen readers, which they do now. I want to see my college develop as a model college for differently-abled students." Ashwini wants to dedicate her life to her cause - educating specially-abled people like herself.
Ashwini's father, Prakash Angadi, a small-time businessman in the city, says “ It is a great moment for us. She was difficult to raise, until the age of ten, after which began looking after herself, never giving us any worries. Many more disabled people must come up this way and the State and Central Government should recognize them.”
Ashwini has been interested in social service since she was a child. The Rs 1000 she gets each month as disability allowance, she gives away to children who cannot afford to pay their school fees.

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