Another of Dr. Wani’s discoveries is Nileema Mishra, 2011 winner of the prestigious award in all of Asia, the Ramon Magsaysay award, for her astounding work. The award is dubbed as the Nobel Prize of Asia. The award citation summarizes her achievements in the following words. “In electing Nileema Mishra to receive the 2011 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes her purpose-driven zeal to live and work tirelessly with villagers in Maharashtra, India, organizing them to successfully address both their aspirations and their adversities through collective action and heightened confidence in their potential to improve their own lives.”
Nileema decided very young to make a difference in the lives of poor villagers. Acting on Gandhian principles and armed with her education and 8 years’ experience, Nileema went back to her own village and founded Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan (BNGVN). Creating impact in the lives of the people, with their own efforts BNGVN believes that the solutions to the problems of the community have to be found within the community. One major area of focus for BNGVN has been the formation of Small Savings Groups. Poor people are trapped into the vicious circle of debt with sky high interest rates. Droughts and epidemics make the situation worse. To resolve these problems, ‘microfinance’ was offered. While the community was getting empowered through microfinance, it was also necessary to inculcate some discipline as well as values. This led BNGVN to introduce the concepts like “Gram Nidhi” (Village Fund) and “Aadarsh Gaon” (Model Village). The Village Fund is used to make loans to the needy on the recommendation of the village assembly, which verifies that the beneficiary fulfills the eligibility criteria. Social pressure motivates the family to abide by the terms set by the village assembly. The beneficiaries, though poor, are really diligent in paying back installments of the loan. So far, BNGVN has recovered 100% of all their loans.