The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has honoured Paralympic field athlete Deepa Malik in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Malik, who became India’s first-ever female Paralympic medallist with a silver in the shot put F53 at Rio 2016, received the 2019 International Women’s Day Recognition award amid a strong list of nominees.
She was recognised for her efforts and achievements in inspiring women in the Paralympic Movement.
The annual honour is distributed to someone who embodies the spirit of the Paralympics and serves as a role model within the Movement for all females, from athletes to technical officials and Committee leaders.
"I am overwhelmed," Malik said.
"It is a true validation of the journey I have had.
"It means a lot, but not just for me alone.
"I think it is a reflection of India and its women and the growth of the Paralympic Movement that we are trying to create over here.
"It validates that our efforts have been fruitful."
Malik’s personal experience towards her Rio 2016 silver medal is what has driven her to passionately promote Para-sport in her own country and especially show females with a disability the empowerment of sport.
"This journey of Paralympic sports has empowered me so much," Malik, who was paralysed almost 20 years ago due to a spinal tumour treatment, said.
"It has given me a reason to stay fit, to achieve a goal.
"It has given me a reason to make an impact in my country to work with the policies.
"It has given me the need to do something."
Outside of competition, Malik has been actively involved in improving accessibility in India.
She contributed towards better sports policies for people with an impairment in her role as a member of the Working Group for the Formulation of the 12th Five-Year Plan, from 2012 to 2017.
Malik is also a consultant for Disability Inclusive Accessible Infrastructure for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs' "Smart City" project.
She thanked her family, friends and coaches, saying "a lot of hands come together", but especially her daughter Devika Malik, who is also a Para-athlete and currently working toward her PhD at Loughborough University in England.
The mother-daughter duo founded the Wheeling Happiness Foundation.
"It has been quite a journey," Malik said about her daughter.
"She has supported me in all my papers and policies, and the work we are doing through Wheeling Happiness.
"That is her brainchild.
"And together we are supporting people with a disability and we are empowering people who need any kind of assistance that we can give, for example whether it is their diet, physiotherapy, commuting maybe."
The decision to grant Malik the Recognition award was made by the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee (WiSC).
"Apart from being a very successful athlete and first Indian female Paralympic medallist, Deepa has given back to the Movement by working to make changes in her own country," WiSC chairperson Rita van Driel said.
"There is no doubt that Deepa is a true inspiration for many females not only in India, but in the Paralympic Movement and beyond."
She added: "This year it has been such an inspiration for the WiSC to read through all 20 nominations for this honour, and it has been a challenge to choose a winner.
"I am proud to see so much talented female leaders in the Movement.
"I thank the members for bringing these names forward but wish they will also nominate more female leaders for important roles within the Paralympic Movement in the future."
The United Nations' International Women’s Day takes place annually and sees organisations, groups and individuals marking the occasion with special events to raise awareness of the role of women in society.