Every year, International Women’s Day is observed with enthusiasm. While the day seeks to reimagine a gender-equal world and celebrate the achievements of exceptional women, females across the globe continue to face numerous hardships and odds even today. Amid all these challenges, however, several women have made a mark for themselves, and left footprints for others to follow.
These changemakers have one suggestion for all the females in the face of countless difficulties they face every day: “just do it”.
From establishing themselves in male-dominated fields to overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams, these inspiring ladies have one thing in common — they all made a difference.
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Woman in sports and mountaineering – Arunima Sinha, world’s first female amputee to scale Mount Everest
Arunima, who lost her leg after she was pushed off a train during a robbery attempt, became an inspiration for millions of women across the globe when she climbed Mount Everest.
“I was inclined towards sports ever since childhood. If I am alive and confident today, it’s because of sports. Living as a girl is so difficult, imagine how challenging must it be to live as an amputee. But, I had decided on the hospital bed itself to do something incredible and create hory,” she told .
सब कुछ खोने के बाद भी अगर आपने हौसला है तो समझ लीजिए कि आपने कुछ नहीं खोया है बस अब अपने लक्ष्य के प्रति फना हो जाने की जरूरत है pic.twitter.com/UiwBiHI1fC
— Dr. Arunima Sinha (@sinha_arunima) July 21, 2021
From being accused of lying about the accident to being laughed at when she planned to climb the highest peak – Arunima had to deal with several societal challenges as well. “Prepare your mind and body to align yourself to a goal. My amputated leg became my biggest weapon which pushed me to do something big.”
“As a sportsperson, you learn to fight no matter what. Since childhood, I knew that you have to stand up every time you fall. My mother has enabled me a lot as she has faced a lot of challenges herself. I also look up to Bachendri Pal for inspiration,” Arunima, whose inspiring story will be showcased under ‘Women of Impact’ this Women’s Day on National Geographic, added.
She asked women to never underestimate themselves and understand their capabilities, no matter what.
Woman in science – Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, director, COVID Task Force Awareness, Rotary Club of Madras Next-Gen and Coronavirolog
When the world was struggling with tons of fake news and an infodemic, Dr Venkatagopalan was actively busting myths about the virus, vaccines and variants, raising awareness.
While she managed to make a mark for herself in biological sciences, she couldn’t help but stress the lack of women in positions of power. “Why is 50 per cent of the population being deprived of STEM participation? What is the reason for this? It’s a tough question, we, as a society, would rather not answer. Various studies show women are excellent problem solvers. Their contribution appears diminished simply because there aren’t enough of them in positions of power,” she told .
Additionally, the expert also highlighted that society’s expectations from women has lead to an unsupportive environment for women to flourish. “In order to become a highly successful female scient, however, one must decide to pause their biological needs such as starting a family, as such is the nature of the work. Men are somehow able to stand on women’s shoulders to get their job done and natural biology does not require them to take a break. This is a societal problem where we still think a woman’s purpose is to create and nurture life. Our social set-up does not support a working woman to flourish.”
Asking women to support other women, she added, “Women mentoring girls to be assertive and confident in their world gives them the power to have their voices heard.”
Woman in social work – Shabnam Singh, chairperson, YouWeCan Foundation and mother of Yuvraj Singh
When the news of cricketing icon Yuvraj Singh battling cancer broke out, the country was in a state of shock and anxiety, to say the least. While Yuvraj was fighting for his life, his mother Shabnam Singh was battling a silent war of her own. However, as mentioned the cricketer on several occasions, she stood like rock-solid support for him amidst the most challenging part of his life.
Recalling the time, she told , “We were advised to go to the US where the best treatment for this kind of cancer was available. It was a huge challenge to be in that freezing weather in a different country all myself with my son. There were times when my spirit used to drop but not for a single minute did I let Yuvraj know that I was feeling low or that I was beginning to feel despondent about it. I knew that my strength would help him get back on to his feet.”
After he won his fight against the deadly disease, he launched the YouWeCan Foundation along with his mother to help empower all the people across India, especially those from the underprivileged sections of the society, to fight cancer. Among the various other measures, the organisation also trains women on how to conduct self-breast examinations and spread awareness on cervical cancer.
“Moreover, we have recently partnered with the Government of Goa and the SBI Foundation for the ‘Swasth Mahila, Swasth Goa’ project. Under this initiative, free breast cancer screening will be done for 1 lakh women in Goa over the next two years,” she added.
Looking back at her journey, she recalls the several challenges faced her. “I got married at a very young age of 18. In hindsight, I think I should have waited for a few more years to be able to handle the responsibilities of a wife, mother and my new family. Later on, having become a single mother, life was full of challenges.”
Woman in tech – Ritu Ghosh, head, Corporate Affairs and CSR, Panasonic India
According to a March 2020 NASSCOM report ‘India’s Tech Industry: Women for the Techade‘, women constitute 35 per cent of India’s technology industry. While there’s a notable upward trend in women’s participation in the tech sector, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to bolstering women’s representation in leadership and decision-making roles.
Highlighting the importance of strengthening women’s participation, Ghosh said, “India’s demographic dividend can only be unleashed if each capable individual is empowered, skilled, and enabled, and only then will the country be able to realize its full potential. A unified mindset, with a gender-neutral approach while appreciating and acknowledging gender diversity is the starting point.”
Dear Panasonic team, thank you for the warmth extended and the compliments. It is a great place to be here at Panasonic with wonderful colleagues and leaders! https://t.co/evdqpfNDpi
— Ritu Ghosh (@ritug054) March 8, 2019
For Ghosh, who started her career 25 years ago when India was at the cusp of the digital revolution, having a ‘sense of purpose’ is a great motivator to overcome any challenge. Further, she believes that each woman, in the position of power, must enable other women to unleash their full potential.
“I realise that women like us have been fortunate to have opportunities that we could unleash and be in a position where we could contribute. As a result, we hold an important responsibility to create opportunities and enable a culture for others, where the next generation of women and the current generation in the growth phase can further be nurtured to dream, believe, and live with a mindset defining no barriers,” she told .
Woman in fashion and jewellery – Chinu Kala, founder, entrepreneur, socialite, model and founder, Ruban Accessories
For Chinu Kala who combined her flair for business along with her love for fashion to curate her own fashion jewellery brand, the journey was far from easy. A classic tale of rags-to-riches, her success story is one built on a path of several challenges.
Differences with her dad made her move out of the home at the tender age of 15 with just Rs 300 in hand. With little money and no qualifications, she worked as a saleswoman for Rs 20 a day. “Every door that was slammed on my face strengthened my resolve to become successful in life stronger,” she told .
In the next few months, she dabbled with several odd jobs to make the ends meet. In 2004, she moved to Bengaluru where her passion for modelling and encouragement friends made her apply for the Gladrags Mrs India contest following which she started her brand, Rubans.
“From the beginning, 60 – 70 per cent of the workforce in Rubans conss of women and I have purposefully kept it that way. We have been encouraging women to come and join us at all levels. We teach them skills and also give them opportunities to grow in the organization. There are girls who joined us 5 years back and completed their graduation while working for Rubans,” Kala said, highlighting the women-enabling policies of her company.
Together, these inspiring women, on this special day has one message for every woman out there – “Be fearless, independent, strong, resolute and never give up in your journey. Don’t let society’s expectations from you stop you from pursuing your passion.”
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