K. V. Rabiya
Kariveppil Rabiya (born 1966) is a physically challenged social worker from Vellilakkadu, Malappuram, Kerala in India who rose to prominence through her role in the Kerala State Literacy Campaign in Malappuram district in 1990. Her efforts were recognised at a national level by the Government of India on multiple occasions. In 1994, the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India had awarded her the National Youth Award for her contributions to society. In January 2001, she was awarded the first Kannagi Sthree Sakthi Puraskar award for the year 1999 for her contribution to upliftment and empowerment of women. She was awarded India's fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri in January 2022.
Born on 25 February 1966 to a poor Mappila family in a remote village, Vellilakkadu, in the district of Malappuram in Kerala as the daughter of a smalltime ration shopowner, Rabiya did her initial studies at Tirurangadi High School before pursuing her graduation at the PSMO College, Tirurangadi. At the young age of 17, while in her first year at college, her legs were crippled by polio. She was forced to stop her studies since she could only move with the help of a wheel chair.
In June 1990, she began a campaign for adult literacy for illiterate people of all ages near her locality. Within six months, virtually the entire illiterate population of Tirurangadi was in her class. Though her work deteriorated her physical condition, she moved forward, garnering support from both the public at large and the authorities. In June 1992, state authorities and officials visited her classroom and were surprised to see a child of 8 studying alongside an 80-year-old woman. Upon receiving her complaints about the lack of basic infrastructure at her village, the District Collector sanctioned roads, electricity, telephone and water connection for her village. The one-and-a-half km road was aptly named Akshara (word) Road.
She later started a volunteer organisation, Chalanam (motion), and continues to serve as its President. It runs six schools for the physically disabled and for mentally retarded children. The organisation also promotes health awareness, and runs schools, health clubs, continuing education programmes, training for women, and rehabilitation of the physically disabled. Its activities also include inspiring public awareness against alcoholism, dowry, family feuds, superstition and communalism. It also established small-scale manufacturing unit for women, a women's library and a youth club in the educationally backward village of Vellilakkadu. Her efforts played an important part in eliminating illiteracy in Kerala.
After the polio about paralysed her below the waist, she continued to move around in a wheelchair. But a few years later in 2000, she was diagnosed with cancer making things much more difficult for her. She successfully underwent chemotherapy at Amala Hospital, Thrissur. While at the hospital, she counselled other patients and instilled hope in them for their future.
By 2004, she had returned to her work, but another tragedy struck her. She slipped on the floor of her bathroom breaking her spinal vertebral column, bringing her movements to a virtual halt. She was partially paralysed below the neck. Later, due to the non-functioning of muscles, she had to resign to a life with urine bag. As she lay on the waterbed, trying to cope up with the pain and inability, she started writing her memories on pages of notebooks using colour pencil. Despite the odds, she still continues her work alongside 100 other volunteers at Chalanam with continued determination.
The different challenges to her health played havoc with not only the family's psyche but also their finances. To secure finances for her treatment, she wrote her memories painstakingly lying on the bed, word by word, and completed the book – Mouna Nombarangal.
Her autobiography, Swapnangalkku Chirakukalundu (Dreams have wings) was released in April 2009. Sukumar Azhikode hailed it as comparable to some of the greatest biographies in history. An earlier collection of her memoirs Mouna Nombarangal (Silent Tears) had been released by the Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. Achuthanandan on 26 October 2006. She has also authored 3 other books. She uses the royalty from the book for her medical expenses.
Her achievements despite her physical disabilities made her an icon of the literacy campaign of the 1990s in Kerala. A biographic film entitled "Rabiya Moves", was made by director Ali Akbar and was noted for its motivational content and translated into 14 languages. Various publications across the world have written more than a 100 articles on her work.
Her first national recognition came in 1994 when she won the National Youth Award from the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India. She won the Padma Shri on 25th January 2022, on the eve of 73rd Republic Day of India. She was the first recipient of Kannagi Devi Stree Shakti Puraskar in 2000 instituted by the Child Welfare Department of the Government of India. She also won the Youth Volunteer against Poverty, jointly instituted by the Government of India Central Youth Affairs Ministry and UNDP in 2000. The Junior Chamber International selected her for the Ten Outstanding Young Indians award in 1999. Other awards include Nehru Yuva Kendra Award, Bajaj Trust Award, Ramasramam Award, the State Literacy Samiti Award, the Seethi Sahib Smaraka award (2010), the Joseph Mundassery Award for Outstanding social work (2010) and the Dr. Mary Verghese Award for Excellence in Empowering Ability (2013).
He is the sole source of my energy, and I am bound to work for the awards in the life hereafter.
Among her students were her mother and grandmother. The situation thrilled her:
It was a great pleasure to see many people in their 60s and 70s coming to the class with slates and pencils, ... I was really thrilled when my grandma called me a teacher.
On another occasion she was quoted:
My advice is when you lose a leg, you'll stand on the other, And when you lose both legs, you have your hands. When fate chops them off too, you will live on the strength of your brains.
Your dedicated service reminds me of the words of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that‚ 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself'.
- Mouna Nombarangal (Silent Tears) – Memoirs – 2006
- Swapnangalkku Chirakukalundu (Dreams have wings) – Autobiography 2009
- "Ker sanctions Rs 5 lakh to physically challenged social worker". outlookindia.com. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
- Pg 282 Annual plan, India. Planning Commission, 2001
- Pg 5, Women and children, our commitment: two years of progress, October 1999 to September 2001, Dept. of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, 2001
- "Padma Awards 2022". Padma Awardee Ticket 2022.
- Pg 166–167, KV Rabiya, Some Outstanding Women of India By Dr Satishchandra Kumar
- FIVE WOMEN TO RECEIVE STREE SHAKTI PURASKAR FOR 1999, Government of India, Press Information Bureau releases, October 2000
- "Moving force – India Beats". The Hindu. 30 September 2007. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012.
- "For Literacy Movement Champion the Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Mohammed Ashraf, Arab News, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, 18 November 2006". Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- Kungumam, December Issue, 2006
- "ധന്യാനുഭവത്തിന്റെ അറഫ സംഗമം". 22 February 2002.
- Rabiya’s autobiography released The Hindu, 19 April 2009
- http://www.mnddc.org/news/inclusion-daily/2006/10/100406indadvemp.htm Crusader Helps Children And Women Achieve 4 October 2006, The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
- "Seethi Sahib awards declared". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 June 2010.
- Seethi Sahib Memorial awards – Mathrubhumi 12 Jan 2010[permanent dead link]
- "Thrissur body announces winners of awards – The Peninsula 8 July 2010". Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- "Dr Mary Verghese Award 2013". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013.