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Sonu Anand Sharma, 1st deaf women to win Delhi government's Nari Shakti Award, has proven everyone wrong

"Just because someone is disabled, don't regard him/her as less capable and able. We are as capable of achieving excellence as everyone else.

That was the powerful message Sonu Anand Sharma communicated in sign language after she was honoured with the Delhi government's Nari Shakti Award on International Women's Day this year. Sonu is the first deaf women to win the award.

A well-known figure in the world of sports, 44-year-old Sonu wears many hats. She is a part of the Women's Commission of International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, Coordinator, Asia Pacific Region, Deaf Sports Confederation and Technical Director (Badminton), All India Sports Council of the Deaf.

That's pretty incredible when you look at Sonu's personal achievements as well as her contribution towards encouraging more deaf children to participate actively in sports.

"I was 10-12 years old when I started training in badminton and at the age of 17 I got selected to represent India at the Deaflympics, says Sonu. "I could not participate for some reason at the time. But when I was 19, I was selected again for the Deaflympics in Denmark and the team won a gold medal.

Now in her leadership positions on various international sporting bodies, Sonu is committed to involving more women with disabilities to participate in sports.

Our organization is committed to educating persons with disabilities, especially women, to participate more in the sports field. In the West Asian regions women are not allowed to participate due to various reasons. We are committed to educating them and about the benefits of actively participating in sports and activities. - Sonu Anand Sharma, Member, International Committee of Sports for the Deaf

The Nari Shakti Award, Sonu hopes, will encourage more deaf sportspersons to come forward. "I hope that my achievements will motivate others in the field to participate more and encourage those who have the talent but not the will power. I feel that people without disabilities get more importance and recognition while disabled people, especially those who are deaf and hard of hearing, are left behind. I aspire to create a situation where the talents of the deaf are equally represented.

Sonu's husband, Somesh Sharma, who was an avid cricketer, is full of admiration for his wife's dedication. Somesh, formerly an advisor at the All India Sports Council of the Deaf is currently General Secretary, Deaf Sports Association of Delhi.

"When I first met her in 1990, we were participating in our respective sports competitions. When I saw her again in 1994, she was even more focused and performing brilliantly in her field. Her dedication and passion for sports is inspiring and the message this sends out to young girls is that if they pursue their passion single-mindedly, they will get the success they deserve.

Snigdha Sharm, a colleague at the Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women has known Sonu for over 19 years and watched her grow closely.

"Her achievements have always surprised people, those with and without disabilities. Disabled people find her success as a surprise because in general all believe that disability is the only truth and there is no success beyond that. She had to fight this thinking many times to prove herself and with hard work and dedication, Sonu has proved everyone wrong."

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