Anuradha Bhosale is an Indian social activist. She is the founder and director of Avani, an organisation based in Kolhapur, Maharahtra, working for women & child rights, and the plight of child labourers.
Anuradha Bhosale was born as ‘Agatha Amolik’ on Monday, 20 December 1971 (age 49 years; as of 2020) in Shrirampur, Maharashtra. Her zodiac sign is Sagittarius. She studied at St. Teresa’s Girl’s High School, Harigaon, until class 5 and then shifted to a missionary-run girl’s hostel at Harigaon, Ahmednagar, because of her family who had moved back to their hometown at Bhokar, Ahmednagar. She then completed her schooling in Shrirampur and completed her Masters in Social Work from Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science in Mumbai in 1991. During her college years, she started working with the migrant children who crushed rocks used in paving roads in Kolhapur, and introduced the families of such children to the principles of micro-finance and assisted in setting up self-help groups for women. She also worked with organizations such as Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, Rankala Bachao, and Mahila Sangharsh.
Eye Color: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family & Caste
She was born in a Catholic family, who belonged to a lower caste before her grandfather changed their religion to Catholicism.
Parents & Siblings
Her father was a pre-primary teacher and earned a salary of Rs. 150 a month. Her mother was a domestic worker and earned Rs. 10 per month as income. She was the eleventh out of twelve children of her parents.
Husband & Children
In 1996, she got married to a lower caste man and shifted to Kolhapur. Her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law started harassing her and her husband did not defend her. Later, she came to know about her husband’s love affair with another woman, and one night, her husband threw Anuradha and her children out of his house. Anuradha and her husband together had two children: a daughter named Kadambari and a son named Granth.
She began her career in 1992 with the Water Supply Department of Jalgaon. In 1993, she worked as a project holder in the Social Work Department of the Bajaj Auto Company in Pune, where she managed environmental and sanitation projects in 124 villages in western Maharashtra, as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. In 1996, she joined the Verala Development Society (VDS), an organization working to provide houses to homeless, divorced, and widowed women.
The next year, she joined Avani, a project by VDS to conduct surveys of migrant children in Kolhapur, and became the first one to conduct such surveys. The word ‘Avani’ is an abbreviation of Marathi letters in which ‘A’ stands Ann (meaning food), ‘Va’ stands for Vastra (meaning clothes), and ‘Ni’ stands for Niwara (meaning shelter). She was the sole employee of Avani from 1997 to 2002 without an office or staff to assist.
Her first step was the introduction of the migrant families to microfinance by helping to organize self-help groups for women. She then established 36 schools with 50 migrant children each. However, she found out that merely educating children will not be enough, and established the Women and Child Rights Campaign (WCRC) to educate, empower, and unite disadvantaged women (who may be widowed, divorced, and abandoned) to counter the root cause of child labour. Her efforts paid, and such women became aware of their legal rights, and in 2010, as many as 3,741 women received Government entitlements in the form of cash, which helped save the rights of many child labourers. WCRC (as of 2020) has a substantial presence in 15 rural villages in and around Kolhapur. Avani works to rescue child labourers (who are exploited, abandoned, and poor) in Kolhapur district and provide them with food, education, and hygiene. Avani also ensures the prevention of child trafficking and female infanticide. Avani even convinced migrant workers to let their children go back to villages so that they can study, and the ones who couldn’t, Anuradha ensured that they could go to schools run by Avani, or the brickyard schools. In 2002, the Right to Education bill was drafted to provide free and compulsory education for all Indian children between the ages of 6-14. Anuradha with Avani advocated for the acceptance of the bill and make it into law, and in April 2010, ‘The Right to Education Act’ was finally passed. In 2005, after a group of migrant labourers requested Anuradha to help in the creation of special residential homes for migrant children, she helped to create Avani Children’s Home, initially run out of a hut made from mud and cow dung lacking electricity or running water.
- Since the age of six, Anuradha was pushed to child labour. She used to serve four households, where she did manual work like cleaning of pots and pans, washing of clothes, sweeping, and rubbing of floors. She had to study apart from earning her livelihood and sometimes ended up working in an empty stomach. However, some of her employers were sympathetic towards her and let her spare time for studies; they also gave her food to eat.
- During her school days, the school’s fee was Rs. 25, but she couldn’t afford it because of her family’s financial condition. Her teachers helped her and her fee was waived. She said,
Whatever I could give was accepted by the institution.”
- Her high school and intermediate schooling was supported by a priest (with whom she had worked earlier) of a church. The priest also helped her pay her college fees for two months. Later, her college offered her financial support. Some of her teachers also financially helped for her study tours.
- Anuradha is fluent in Marathi, Hindi, and English. However, she learned English after she was almost rejected by the selector of College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, for not knowing English. The selectors believed that language may become a barrier in learning as she only knew Hindi and Marathi. According to Anuradha,
I convinced them that I will learn the language and it will not cause a problem. It was a Friday. The selectors asked for some time to consider the case and by Monday, I was selected.”
- According to Anuradha, she follows Catholicism. Her grandfather was born a Hindu but converted to Catholicism because he belonged to the lowest level in the caste hierarchy, because of which, he was denied entry to temples, suffered segregation from the main village, denied education, condemned to slavery, and had no independent source of income. Reportedly, at that time, a converted Christian of any denomination could technically become an outsider from Hindu society, and so, the taboos would not be applicable to him. Talking about it, Anuradha said,
The Christian missionaries treated these formerly outcaste people with sympathy and human warmth. I grew up as a Catholic and had no inferiority complex. The Catholic mission in my area had established schools and hostels where I could be educated without difficulty and I did not face discrimination. Catholicism with its emphasis on love and compassion for your fellow beings and the doctrine of serving humanity being equivalent to serving God must have laid the foundation of a service – oriented attitude in me.”
- When Anuradha first went to brickyards to convince the owners of the yards to not to employ children, the owners sent their goons to threaten and beat her up. However, she stood firm in her place, and at last, the owners had to support her.
- After her husband threw Anuradha and her children out of his house, Anuradha was offered a place to stay by her friend. Other friends also helped Anuradha for few months. Even Arun Chavan (Chairman of Avani), Comrade Govind Pansare (former Communist leader of Kolhapur who fought legal battles for the underprivileged), and Dr Sunil Kumar Lawate (a social worker in Kolhapur) helped her during that time. Eventually, she was able to stand on her feet and continued with her social works.
- She has been called the ‘Bandit Queen of India’s Social Movement’ likened to India’s legendary bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi.
- She has been featured in the talk shows such as News18 Lokmat’s ‘Great Bhet’ (2014) and Doordarshan’s ‘Stree Shakti’ (2015).
- She is the recipient of Women Have Wings Award (a global award that honours women of courage who works for empowering women around the world) 2016.
- Her organization, Avani, is a Global Fund for Children partner and a winner of the 2020 Juliette Gimon Courage Award.
- In 2020, she appeared along with Nagraj Manjule in the Karamveer Special of the game reality show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati,’ hosted by Amitabh Bachchan.