From ensuring gender equality and justice to going down a path less trodden, these women have shown what it takes to achieve success. On International Women’s Day, these are the 30 women who have been recognised with the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2017, India’s highest honour for women.
Ensuring Equal Access To Justice
As a Judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Geeta Mittal spearheaded the Vulnerable Witness Project, a jurisprudential intervention that removed legal and institutional barriers for access to justice to women. The move was borne out of the realization that the universal approach in court room trials involving sexual violence on women and children severely impeded equal access to justice; it also results in secondary traumatization during trial. On International Women’s Day, few initiatives can be more significant than this.
Weaving A Success Story
A handloom entrepreneur and social worker based in Imphal, Manipur, Chirom Indira has worked to promote the state’s handloom products and the women who make them in the national and international markets. She has also trained over 8,000 weavers.
Giving Flight To Dreams
In 1992, Gargi Gupta founded the NGO Voice of the World which works for visually-impaired and differently-abled orphan children in eastern India. Besides setting up a residential facility for this, she has also established a home for visually-challenged women in Rishra, West Bengal.
High Altitude Warrior
A medical practitioner who ensures that help is provided in the most difficult situations, Dr Anita Bharadwaj conducts and supervises rescue operations at high altitudes. Along with her team, she has undertaken rescues operations during the Uttarakhand flood, Nepal earthquake and the Shri Amarnath Yatra.
The Power Of One
Having built 83 homes for destitute people, each with a bedroom, hall, kitchen, and toilet, Dr MS Sunil has given the slogan “a roof over everybody’s head” a new meaning. Starting with one house for a 65-year-old who was living under an umbrella, Dr M S Sunil has used all the means at her disposal to reach out to as many people as she can. The retired Zoology teacher from Pathanamthitta in Kerala exemplifies the power of one.
52,000 And Counting
Jetsun Pema has been working for Tibetan refugee children since 1964, setting up schools, hostels and vocational centres with the help of the government and social organisations. Till now, 52,000 students have graduated from her institutions, half of who are Tibetan refugees.
Never Too Late!
Here is yet another inspiring story on International Women’s Day. Joining as a typist in a Karnataka government department in 1989, Revanna Umadevi Nagraj developed a liking for table tennis. One of those days, she decided to try her hand at billiards. Ignoring remarks that she was too old for the game, she went on to win her first national championship in 2002. She participated in a number of world championships and won the Women’s Billiard and Snooker World Championship in the UK in 2012.
Dial A Service
Mehvish Mushtaq developed the first-ever Android application for Kashmir called ‘Dial Kashmir’. It provides essential phone numbers of government and non-government agencies, commercial services and information like train timings.
Painting A Legacy
Before K Syamalakumari ventured into the world of temple mural painting in Kerala, it was the exclusive preserve of men. She has not only painted, preserved and restored traditional mural art in the state’s temples, her documentaries have also been screened widely.
For Anuradha Krishnamoorthy and Namrata Sundaresan from Chennai, their success story has all to do with cheese. They have formed an enterprise that produces 20 varieties of unique artisanal cheese.
The other awardees announced on International Women’s Day are also from diverse fields, with a mind-boggling range of achievements.
- Sabarmati Tikee is a scholar, conservationist and founder of Sambhav, an NGO that runs large organic and training farms near Bhubaneswar, Odisha. She works with local communities for the restoration of forests and regeneration of wastelands.
- Puspa Girimaji is India’s best-known journalist on consumer affairs. She played a pivotal role in bringing about the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
- Wildlife biologist Purnima Barman from Assam has been working for the protection of an endangered stork, Hargilla.
- Founder of the Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch in Ahmedabad, Mittal Patel has worked extensively for the rights of nomadic and de-notified tribes.
- Dr Lizymol Philipose Pamadykandathil, a scientist with three decades of experience in polymers and biomaterials, has developed a unique bioactive bone cement. This is set to replace existing materials due to its excellent performance.
- Urmila Balawant Apte has spent decades working for the cause of gender equality. Having founded Bhartiya Stree Shakti in 1988, she has worked extensively for women in education, skill development and financial independence.
- Deepika Kundaji is a conservationist who turned a stretch of severely-eroded land in Auroville, north of Puducherry, into a forest of indigenous trees and water bodies. She is now spreading her message of revival and sustainable agriculture across the country.
- An avid trekker, Thinlas Chorol was turned away by all the companies she approached for a trekking guide’s job because she was a woman. She went ahead and started what was Ladakh’s first all-women travel company.
- She lost her hand due to a freak bomb explosion in Bikaner, Rajasthan. Today, Dr Malvika Iyer is a motivational rights speaker and disability activist.
- A doctor working for the welfare of women and children in tribal areas of Jharkhand, Dr Bharti Kashyap has also founded an eye-care hospital in Ranchi that conducts free eye camps for children.
- Dr C K Durga has contributed immensely in the field of women’s health through her extensive research on breast cancer. She has also developed a path-breaking technique in breast cancer surgery.
- Having been forced into sex work by her husband, Jayamma Bandari knew all too well what women trapped in such a situation went through. For the past 20 years, she has been working to rehabilitate sex workers and providing education to their children.
- Known as the Mother of Orphans, Dr Sindhutai Sapkal’s adopted children are now lawyers, doctors and engineers.
- A frontrunner in innovation, Madhu Jain is a craft and textile revivalist who has been working for over 30 years to revive Ikat techniques and bamboo fibres.
- Ambica Beri has established India’s only permanent creative retreat for artists, writers and sculptors. It is located in Ichal, a small village about 140 km from Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh.
- Sheela Balaji worked hard to bring back old varieties of rice after studying the different nutrients and medicinal values that they had. Starting with four varieties, she has managed to preserve nearly 30.
- A member of the Railway Protection Force, Rekha Mishra has rescued 953 runaway/trafficked/lost children from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) since 2015.
- Dr S Siva Sathya developed a mobile App, Mitra (Mobile Initiated Tracking and Rescue Application). It is a customised SOS application for the Puducherry region.
- Gauri Maulekhi from Dehradun, Uttarakhand, was instrumental in mobilising international opinion to stop the mass slaughter of animals in Gadhimai, Nepal; her lead in rescuing animals trapped during the Kedarnath floods led to animal welfare being included in the National Disaster Management Policy.
The International Women’s Day celebrates these and thousands of other individuals and institutions that are bringing about change across the world.
(All photos are from the Twitter account of the Press Information Bureau, PIB.
Information about the awardees is sourced from the official government citations.)