With only few days left for the month of August to commence, Asia and the rest of the world are hooked to the region's annual pride- the Ramon Magsaysay award that annually felicitate the crop of men and women whose outstanding and selfless social work has brought a lasting impact and smile in the faces of their respective countrymen.
Hailed as the ‘Nobel Prize’ of Asia the Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award established to perpetuate former Philippine President Ramón Del Fierro Magsaysay’s example of integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.
Born on 1907, Magsaysay was the third president of the Republic of the Philippines after the Second World War. His life had a great impact not only on his countrymen but on many people in many lands. Magsaysay commanded the admiration, respect and affection of people as he was a simple, humble man who cared for all people and believed in their dignity and importance.
His sole objective of life was to improve the lot of his fellow Filipinos which he approached with selfless devotion. He believed that the government was solely meant to reflect the will of the people. He died on March 31, 1957 in a plane crash. An estimated 5 million people attended Magsaysay's burial and is popularly referred to by the people the "Idol of the Masses."
The same year of his death, the Ramon Magsaysay Award was created by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund based in New York City with the concurrence of the Philippine government. The Foundation has since implemented the Magsaysay Award program, pursuing the mission of "honoring greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia."
The Ramon Magsaysay Award (RMA) embraces the citizens residing in East, Southeast, and South Asia and any citizen living in Asia regardless of race, creed, sex or nationality. The people who receive this prestigious award are those who have achieved distinction in their respective fields and have helped others generously without anticipating public recognition.
The award bestowed by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation is given after rigorous investigation and selection. Nominations are carefully investigated and the awardees are determined after rigorous evaluation by the Foundation's board of trustees. Presentation Ceremonies are held annually in Manila on August 31, the birth anniversary of the late President.
The award carries a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President, and a cash prize of USD 50,000.
Traditionally the RMA was given in five categories but during the 2000 Magsaysay Awards the sixth Award category, Emergent Leadership was created. This new Award category was established with the support of a grant from the Ford Foundation.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership honours individuals, forty years of age and below, doing outstanding work on issues of social change in their communities, but whose leadership is not yet broadly recognized outside of these communities. An award in this category was given for the first time in 2001.
Social activist Arvind Kejriwal, who spearheaded the RTI movement to bring in more transparency and empowering poor citizens to fight corruption, was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership in 2006.
The other five categories are:
- Government Service: to recognize outstanding service in the public interest in any branch of government, including executive, judicial, legislative, or military.
- Public Service: to recognize outstanding service for the public good by a private citizen.
- Community Leadership: to recognize leadership of a community toward helping the disadvantaged have fuller opportunities and a better life.
- Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts: to recognize effective writing, publishing, or photography or the use of radio, television, cinema, or the performing arts as a power for the public good.
- Peace and International Understanding: to recognize contributions to the advancement of friendship, tolerance, peace, and solidarity as the foundations for sustainable development within and across countries.
Since 1958, 261 individuals and 16 organizations have been named Magsaysay awardees. Among them are some of Asia's great humanitarians, community leaders, intellectuals, and artists.
Today, the Ramon Magsaysay Award program is managed by the RMAF board of trustees composed of nine Filipinos serving staggered four-year terms. An appointed president oversees the full-time administration of the program. Annually, the RMAF solicits award nominations from a wide-ranging pool of international nominators.
Some of the prominent Indian personalities to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award are: Kiran Bedi, Baba Amte, Vinoba Bhave, Verghese Kurien, Arvind Kejriwal, R.K Laxman, C.D. Deshmukh and T.N. Seshan.
The year 2011 has been a twin glory for India as two Indians has been chosen for the coveted Ramon Magsaysay award.
Harish Hande, 44 is being recognized for his passionate and pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor, through a social enterprise that brings customized, affordable, and sustainable electricity to India's vast rural populace, encouraging the poor to become asset creators.
Nileema Mishra, 29 is being recognized for her purpose-driven zeal to 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. Mishra has pledged to donate the entire prize money to her rural microcredit project.
The vision of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation is to continue to honour persons and organizations as exemplars of selfless leadership, whose lives and work make Asia truly a better place to live in.
The Magsaysay laureates, through their ideas and programs, exert strong individual and collective influence as a community of moral leaders who promote just, democratic and sustainable responses to the challenges of human development throughout the Asian region. Due to their development initiatives they are better known and more accessible to the public, and are increasingly supported by media and other relevant institutions within and outside Asia.
Thus, these laureates can be hailed as the silent and real heroes of their country as all are deeply involved in addressing issues that impact human progress not only in their respective countries, but indeed, in all of Asia. They set a perfect example how commitment, competence, and collaborative leadership can truly transform individual lives and galvanize community action.
But the main thing to reckon is that all the Magsasyay laureates share a common bond i.e. they refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition.
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