Pushpa Basnet: Nepal's 'Mamu' wins CNN hero award

Pushpa Basnet Pushpa Basnet said she would use the prize money to help more children

It has been eight years since Pushpa Basnet, a 28-year-old Nepali woman, began gathering the children of Nepali prison inmates in a centre in the capital, Kathmandu, and providing them not only with shelter, but also education and motherly love.

Now she has won 2012's CNN Hero of the Year prize, which is awarded as a result of a worldwide online poll conducted by CNN.

Start Quote

I saw an eight-month-old girl. I was so touched by her plight and that of other children. I thought I must do something and right away started working for them”

End Quote Pushpa Basnet CNN Hero of the Year

When she talked to BBC Nepali after being nominated for the award, Ms Basnet said that if she won she would use the money to help build better facilities for her children.

She became the second Nepali woman to win the CNN Hero award in the last three years after Anuradha Koirala, who leads Maiti Nepal, an organisation that combats the trafficking of girls.

Witnesses to violence

Known fondly as "Mamu" among the children at her centre, Ms Basnet said she would use the award money of $250,000 (£155,000) to help around 80 children she said were still languishing in various jails in Nepal through no fault of their own.

Often, children are forced to live with their impoverished and incarcerated parents because they have no-one to look after them on the outside.

Among the 46 children at the centre are a few who have witnessed terrible crimes, she said.

"There is a five-year-old girl who was raped by her father because her mother ran away with someone else. And many have witnessed domestic violence," she told BBC Nepali last week.

Pushpa Basnet with children at her centre Ms Basnet looks after some 46 children at her centre in Kathmandu

It all started when she went on a field trip as part of a university assignment to visit a local prison.

"I saw an eight-month-old girl. I was so touched by her plight and that of other children. I thought I must do something and right away started working for them," she says, adding she wishes to remain unmarried.

As she accepted the award at the star-studded award ceremony held in Los Angeles on Monday, she remembered the children she cares for.

"This award means a lot to me. Still 80 children are living in prison. Definitely, Mamu is going to take you out of the prison," she said.

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