CHANDIGARH: Social worker Sifiya Haneef from Kerala will be conferred the Neerja Bhanot Award-2018 for her extraordinary work towards uplifting widows and helping more than 300 families. She has been providing homes, constructing toilets in colonies, distributing medicine and providing pension to widows in distress.
The Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust announced that Sifiya Haneef will be conferred the award on September 7 on the occasion of Neerja’s birthday this year.
This annual award was instituted in 1990 in the memory of the brave Senior Flight Purser, Neerja Bhanot, who saved hundreds of lives while sacrificing her own, during a Pan Am plane hijack at Karachi Airport in September 1986.
Akhil Bhanot, the Managing Trustee of Neerja Bhanot Trust said, “Sifiya got married when she was 16 and was forced to quit her education. Unfortunately, her husband died when she was 20. She had two children by then. Sifiya wished to continue her studies but did not get any support. Not willing to give up, she took on a part-time job and resumed her studies. After a lot of struggle and realizing that life was very tough not only for her but for other widows as well, she started spending her salary on helping widows. She started a Facebook page called 'Chithal' where she wrote about the issues facing widows".
She met a lot of sick mothers, kids, elderly people, cancer patients and more. She would update her page on the problems these people were facing and started getting public support to solve their issues. Today, she is helping more than 300 families by providing homes, constructing toilets in colonies, distributing medicines, giving pension etc, he added.
The award will be conferred by Wendy Sue Knecht, who will fly down from Los Angeles to preside over the award ceremony. Wendy was also working in Pan Am and was a Trainer of Neerja in the 1980s.
The award consists of prize money worth Rs 1.50 lakh, a Citation and a Trophy. It is conferred to an Indian woman who, when faced with social injustice, overcomes it with guts and grit and then helps other women in social distress.
Apart from being the trainer of Neerja, Wendy Sue Knecht also believes in protesting against injustice. Recently, Wendy took up a fight for justice regarding her medical situation. Not only did she ensure that the doctor involved was penalised, but she is also now helping to enact some changes with California
Medical Board and is working with the California State Legislature to enact a law that would make disclosure of Financial Conflicts of Interest by doctors mandatory.
Wendy is also the author of a book ‘Love, Life and a Hijacking’.