Kulandei Francis, 65, whose Integrated Village Development Project in Krishnagiri has helped changed the lives of many in Tamil Nadu villages was adjuged the winner, along with other activists from Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
Francis is being recognised for "his visionary zeal, his profound faith in community energies, and his sustained programmes in pursuing the holistic economic empowerment of thousands of women and their families in rural India," said a statement from the Magsaysay Foundation.
Francis, who himself came from a modest background, attained a graduate degree from Annamalai University, and started the IVDP in 1979, and over the years has expanded its reach in the state.
It helped establish self help groups for women that supported poverty-stricken women engage in group activities and start micro enterprises, create savings accounts, and secure reliable loans.
Through education and community activities, thousands of women have been able to help their families wriggle out of poverty.
At present there are over 8,000 self-help groups across the three districts of Krishnagiri, Dharmpuri and Vellore, supported by IVDP.
Both Francis's wife and daughter play prominent roles in running his organisation.
Other winners of this year's award are Chen Shu-Chu from Taiwan, Romulo Davide from the Philippines, Syeda Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh, Yang Saing Koma from Cambodia and Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto from Indonesia.