Jyoti Yadav is only 13 years old but even at this small age she has been championing the cause of widows to assure that they find respectability in the society.
Jyoti launched a campaign "Respect for Widows in Society", focused on the empowerment of widows in her village, struck by the humiliation faced by her mother after the death of her father. Jyoti decided to raise this issue with the Gram Panchayat and ensure respect and employability for widowed women in their village.
Jyoti hails from an economically backward family in the village of Dabadwas in Alwar, Rajasthan. After the death of her father in 2010, Jyoti and her mother had no source of income. Jyoti also witnessed the discriminating behavior her mother faced, now that she was a widow. Her mother was often asked to stay away from family functions and community events because she was a widow. Jyoti, then, realized the humiliation and disrespect that widows faced in the society and decided to fight for the rights of her mother and other women like her.
The girl spoke to Sangeeta Yadav, the head teacher at the Satya Bharti Government Upper Primary School where she studied. They visited the Sarpanch of the village, Bhagwati Devi, and requested her support in eliminating this evil.
Bhagwati convened a Panchayat meeting and discussed the issue at the Gram Sabha. Jyoti also went door to door, meeting the elderly in the village and making them aware of the plight of widows in their village and requesting their support. She initially faced a lot of resentment and humiliation for daring to take up such a sensitive issue, but her efforts finally paid off and she was able to gradually win support for her cause.
Jyoti also convinced the local administration to give widows like her mother jobs in the village so that they could support their own families and not have to live off donations from others. Jyoti's mother is now employed as the main in-charge of the Anganwadis in her village. Other qualified widowed women are also now being given preference as teachers for schools in the surrounding areas.
In recognition of her efforts, Jyoti was rewarded as one of the top two national honoree(s) at the "2012 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards" with a gold medal, Rs 50000 in cash and an all-expense paid return trip to Washington, D.C. in May 2012 to represent India. The Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards acknowledges the efforts of school children currently engaged in voluntary community service and hold them up as role models for all young Indians.