MANILA, Philippines (AP) — An Indian village organizer and an Indonesian who has helped impoverished rural villages run small hydropower plants are among the six winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Awards.
The awards announced Thursday are considered Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prizes. They are named after a Philippine president who died in a plane crash in 1957.
Nileema Mishra founded a center that has organized self-help groups among Indian villagers. The center extends small loans to villagers for businesses and community projects that help them improve their own lives.
Tri Mumpuni heads a business group that has built community-run hydropower plants in rural Indonesia.
A Cambodian, a Philippine organization, another Indonesian and another Indian were the other winners.
The center founded by Mishra in 1995 started with a self-help group of 14 women, giving small loans and training women to produce food items and export-quality quilts. The center today has some 1,800 self-help groups in 200 villages across India's Maharashtra state.
Its microcredit program has distributed the equivalent of $5 million with a 100 percent loan recovery rate.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation praised Mishra for organizing Maharashtra's villagers to address "their aspirations and their adversities through collective action and heightened confidence in their potential to improve their own lives."
Mumpuni's business group IBEKA based in West Java has built 60 community-run hydropower plants with 5 to 250 kilowatts capacity. It has provided electricity to 500,000 people in rural Indonesia.
The award body noted her skill and determination in turning IBEKA into an outstanding Indonesian example of social entrepreneurship.
Her compatriot Hasanain Juaini won for going against tradition and opening an Islamic boarding school for girls that integrates learning with community life. The school in West Lombok involves students and teachers in issues like the environment, livelihood and good governance, the award body said.
Cambodian Koul Panha was recognized for his courageous leadership of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections that has mobilized 50,000 election volunteers and trained 150,000 Cambodians on electoral issues. The committee lobbies for reforms in the fragile democracy.
Indian engineer Harish Hande was recognized for establishing a solar power company in Bangalore that has reached more than half a million poor people, installing solar lights in 120,000 households, small enterprises and community facilities.
The company customizes products for the poor like head lamps for night workers, then links their sale to credit from rural banks.
The Alernative Indigenous Development Foundation, a nonprofit based in the central Philippines' Negros Occidental province, won for introducing a pumping system that has transformed the lives of upland communities without easy access to water.
It trains village techinicians and groups to manage the system that uses the natural kinetic energy from rivers or springs to push water uphill without using gas or electicity.