|Born||22nd April, 1959|
Preeti Monga (born on 22nd April, 1959 in Amritsar, India) is an Indian National Awardee, social worker, disability activist, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, life coach, leadership trainer, sexual harassment consultant, counsellor, fitness expert and author. Blind since childhood, Monga has been working towards improving living conditions for the visually impaired. She is the founder of Silver Linings, a not-for-profit organization that works towards inclusion and empowerment of blind children and women through education and programs to raise awareness about various medical issues surrounding Visual impairment. She is the first known visually impaired Indian aerobics instructor. Among the many accolades and honours to her name, Monga received the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities from the President of India in 2013. The Delhi Government’s Exceptional Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award, Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Awards, Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award and the Ashoka Fellowship are among some of her other laurels.
Preeti Monga was the firstborn child of Manmohan Kaur and Charanjit Singh. She spent the first five years of her childhood in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, where her father worked for the Central Water and Power Commission as an Assistant Engineer. Due to the nature of her father’s work as a central government employee, the family had to frequently move around the country. This resulted in Monga’s primary education being split across schools throughout North and North-East India. After short periods of time spent in Shimla and Delhi, her father was posted to Agartala, the capital of Tripura. Here, Monga was enrolled at Shishu Vihar. At the age of six, a noticeable decline in her schoolwork concerned her teachers, prompting a series of meetings and complaints. Her parents turned to the family doctor for advice, who discovered that her vision was deteriorating and that she would eventually become completely blind.
The nearly unchanged atmosphere at home following this revelation was a significant source of emotional support for Monga, who was set to face a very different reception outside the safety of her home.
The fact that the family lived in the remote town of Agartala meant that they had no access to Visual specialized support, counselling and guidance in matters of education, healthcare and basic information on how to raise a visually impaired child. This prompted Monga’s parents to independently come up with simple, innovative ways of teaching her the basic life skills she needed to possess. For instance, her mother would close her own eyes to experience the world the way she did, to develop methods to teach her. Despite her inability to see, Monga was encouraged to try her hand at all sorts of activities under careful supervision.
With her father’s work in Agartala complete, the family returned to Delhi, where Monga was enrolled at Loreto Convent School at the age of 11. Less than two years later, she was dismissed from the school, which cited her blindness as a ‘disturbance to other students’. Following this incident, no other mainstream schools accepted her as a student due to her vision impairment. The only remaining option was to attend a Blindness and education - but at the time, these schools offered an extremely low standard of education which would not open up any prospects for the future.
As her stint with formal education came to an end, Monga was sent to learn music. The next eight years saw her attempting to master the sitar, earning her a diploma from the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi. Her talents, however, did not lean in a musical direction, and thus ceased her classical education. Her failure at music spurred her to obtain a high school certificate, and at the age of twenty two, she achieved this through the newly established National Institute of Open Schooling.
Preeti trained to become an Aerobics instructor despite being told repeatedly that as a visually impaired person, she would not be able to work in the profession. In 1988, she achieved her dream of being an Entrepreneurship and fitness instructor, with the launch of her own aerobics classes. She is India’s first known blind aerobics instructor.
Since 1987, Monga has volunteered with various organizations and institutions for the blind in the capacity of a counsellor, to spread awareness on the integration of disabled people into mainstream society, helping families and individuals deal with visual impairment. In 1994, Monga learnt how to use computers integrated with speech recognition software, enabling her passion for reading and writing. This gave her the opportunity to write for leading publications such as Hindustan Times, The Times of India and The Pioneer (India), and paved the way for her two autobiographies as well.
In 1997, Monga participated in the first integrated Fashion Show in Chennai, Tamil Nadu along with renowned celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan|Aishwarya Rai and Usha Uthup. Following this, she has been a part of subsequent integrated fashion shows in the company of prominent individuals like actor-model Rahul Dev and model Sonika Sahay.
Preeti has worked with various Non-governmental organization, including Katha (NGO), an organization geared towards empowering children through education. After a stint with Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital as their Head Public Relations, she continues to work with their Eye Bank in an advisory capacity, promoting Corneal transplantation donation through partnerships with corporate hospitals, training their staff to educate families of deceased patients on the process and its advantages.
As an activist for the rights of disabled and impaired individuals, Monga has been a part of many campaigns and advisory committees dedicated to better inclusion of differently-abled individuals in society. She participated in a petition campaign appealing to the National Human Rights Commission of India to enable visually impaired people to create and operate bank accounts, which then successfully ensured that the order was passed in the State Bank of India.
Preeti’s extensive list of career achievements include:
- Speaker at the inauguration of the first film festival on disability at Al Noor, Dubai
- Speaker at a United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day event in Hongkong organized by Community Business, 2013
- Moderated a session on Employment of PWDs in the corporate sector with panelists from Barclays Japan & Hongkong, Nomura, and Microsoft Singapore
- Chosen by the Vodafone foundation as an extraordinary woman and profiled on their Red Rickshaw Revolution campaign
- Speaker at TED (conference) Amity in September 2016 on the topic ‘Blending Vision’
- Governing Council Member of Skill Council for Persons with Disability (SCPwD) , created by the Ministry of Social Justice & CII.
- Former Secretary to the Central Executive Council of the All India Confederation for the Blind, Delhi.
- Formerly associated with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) as an Executive Member of the Governing Council, as well as the Convener of the Women’s Committee NFB.
- Formerly associated with the National Association for the Blind, RK Puram, as Joint Secretary and Executive Member of the Governing Council
- Former Regional Secretary to the National Forum for Women, All India Confederation for the Blind (AICB)
- Mentor for Fellows of Kanthari international – Empowering Social Visionaries
- Advisor to BillionAbles, a non-profit organization that provides assistive devices for people with disabilities online
In 2006, Preeti started her own organization Silver Linings, which works to provide inclusive education of the highest quality, for visually impaired children.
Silver Linings, a not-for-profit organization, works towards providing quality and inclusive education for blind children, secure residential facility for blind girls, empowerment of blind women, and facilitating reduction of preventable blindness. Silver Linings was formally registered in June of 2006.
To motivate and work towards achieving complete inclusion and dignity for the visually impaired and disabled.
- Shiksha: A preparatory school and resource centre for blind children that supports their education in regular schools under an inclusive education system. Shiksha aims to ensure equal opportunity, quality education and mainstream inclusion of visually impaired individuals. The Shiksha Hostel for blind girls is a safe accommodation space for visually impaired girls and young women, which also has a training centre for their all-round development and higher employability.
- Jyoti: A project to facilitate and promote Cornea retrieval and donation in partnership with Dr Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital Eye Bank.
- Dignity: A project targeted towards empowering and mainstreaming of visually impaired girls and women through vocational training.
- Fusion: An initiative to bridge the gap between disabled and non-disabled people through the creation of a holistic platform for social networking.
- Inclusion: A series of sensitization and awareness building programs to promote inclusion of people with disabilities. The course also trains representatives of corporate firms in employing and working with people with disabilities and connects these firms with employment agencies for differently-abled people.
- Trauma Counselling: Counselling services for recently disabled people and their families to help them accept their disability, and rehabilitate them to live as independently as possible, while integrating them into mainstream society.
Preeti resides in Delhi, India, with her husband Ashwani Kumar Monga. She is a mother of two and also has three grandchildren.
AWARDS AND HONORS
- National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2013 under the category – Best Employees/Self Employed with Disabilities from the President of India
- State Award for Exceptional Achievement in Entrepreneurship, 2015 by the Department of Social Welfare, GNCT of Delhi
- Ashoka Fellowship
- Rex Karmaveer Chakra Award
- National Geographic Society
- IIT Delhi Celebration of Women Achievers, 2019
- Womennovator – 100 Woman Faces, 2018
- Honoured by Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs of India, University of Chicago, 2017
- Dr. Verghese Kurien Award by Rex, 2016
- Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Award by Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinics Pvt. Ltd., 2011
- National Women Excellence Award (Nav Kiran Award) by the Women’s International Network, 2010
- The Silver Phoenix Award by Indian Institute of Planning and Management
- Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Awards for Social Act of Courage Presented by Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, 1999
- "Silver Linings". www.silver-linings.org. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
- "Scheme of National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities | National Portal of India". www.india.gov.in. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
- "National Entrepreneurship Awards". 22 October 2020.
- "Rajiv Gandhi Manav Sewa Award". 22 October 2020.
- "Central Water Commission, Ministry of Jal Shakti". 22 October 2020.
- "Best Eye Hospital In Delhi, Gurgaon. Eye Specialists In Lasik, Cataract, Glaucoma, Cornea, Vitreo-Retina And Oculoplasty – Dr. Shroff 's Charity Eye Hospital". Retrieved 2020-10-22.
- "Eye Bank – Best Eye Hospital In Delhi, Gurgaon. Eye Specialists In Lasik, Cataract, Glaucoma, Cornea, Vitreo-Retina And Oculoplasty". Retrieved 2020-10-22.
- "Home | The Skill Council for Persons with Disability". www.scpwd.in. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment". Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- "AICB home". www.aicb.org.in. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "Homepage | National Federation of the Blind". www.nfb.org. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "nabindia | National Association for the Blind". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "Find Accessible Places & Services for persons with special needs". www.billionables.com. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "Womennovator | First Virtual Global Incubator for Women". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "100 women faces 2018 | Womennovator". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- "Dr Batra's || Positive Health Awards". www.drbatras.com. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- Monga, Preeti (2012-10-18). The Other Senses: An Inspiring True Story of a Visually Impaired. Roli Books Private Limited. ISBN 978-93-5194-036-4.
- "Roli Books – Home". Retrieved 2020-11-21.
- Monga, Preeti (2018-04-24). Flight without Sight. Hay House, Inc. ISBN 978-93-86832-47-4.
- "Hay House India". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
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