Bhubaneswar: It was an afternoon that brought smiles and tears of joy together on the faces of several girls like Janu Begum and Jita Priyadarshini as they were awarded the Fair and Lovely Scholarship for 2011. In a packed ceremony at the Y. B Chavan Auditorium, it was announced that 219 girls, from financially underprivileged backgrounds but who showcased brilliance in academics and a burning desire to strike big in life, were awarded the scholarships to pursue higher education by the Fair and Lovely Foundation.

Amidst this Paulo Coelho, the noted Brazilian Novelist spoke, “Sharing my personal experience, I had to overcome a lot of prejudices, difficult moments. I was down and out many times in my life just because I wanted to fulfill a dream; that was to be a writer. I think if I were a woman, it would have been three times more difficult. So you’re not alone, the prejudices are there.”

He went on to encourage the Fair and Lovely scholars and said, “If you are guided by enthusiasm, if enthusiasm is in your heart, if you are committed to what you want to do, you are going to succeed”. The words were indeed motivational, for amongst the winners were some who wanted to overcome societal prejudices against educating girls, others strove to give their ailing parents a better lifestyle and a few were delighted be the first graduates in their families thanks to this scholarship.

The occasion also brought together women from similar backgrounds but who had proven their mettle to the world. They were Mountaineer Santosh Yadav, India’s first lady firefighter Harshini Kanhekar, Shaheeda Parween Ganguly, the lady from J&K who redifned bravery in uniform and has been awarded Police Gallantry Award as well as the the rare Northern Army Commander’s commendation card.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Guest Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman, Indian Council of Social Science Research and Former Chairman University Grants Commission said, “When we talk about access to higher education for women, we are talking about its positive role in not just one generation of people, but the eventual impact it will have on several generations thereafter. Which is why, I consider this activity of helping girls from the lowest economic order to access higher education a commendable social development activity undertaken by Fair and Lovely.”

The Fair & Lovely Foundation Scholarship helps academically brilliant girls from the lowest economic strata of the society fulfill their dreams of higher education. These students are supported with course fees, accommodation, local travel, books and stationery costs, depending upon the need.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Govind Rajan, Vice President, Skincare, Hindustan Unilever Limited said, “Education opens doors to all when it comes to social and economic inclusion. Yet if one had to invest singularly, educating girls would be the single best investment one can make to build a better society. We at Fair and lovely, through our foundation are working towards this goal and focussing on providing young women the means to avail of higher education, so they can build themselves as assets to the nation”.

With its ninth year of awarding scholarships to girls, the Fair and Lovely Foundation has now helped more than one thousand three hundred young girls access a brighter future. The Fair & Lovely Foundation continues to contribute to the area of female education in the country. Deserving candidates are selected through a screening-and-interview process. Our panel includes noted professionals from various fields, who carefully interviewed these girls across 6 centres: Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Chandigarh. Their level of need and desire to excel was taken into account to select the final list of awardees.