The year 2020 was unlike any other; it brought upon us a global health crisis – coronavirus pandemic – and changed our lives forever. Yet, in some ways, it also had some silver linings. In the last year, women and girls from various walks of life (and ages) scripted history with their lesser-known stories, sparking change and instilling a sense of inspiration among fellow women.
As we approach the end of this year, let’s take a look at some of the best ‘discoveries of 2020’:
In 2020, a woman head constable from northwest Delhi’s Samaypur Badli police station - Seema Dhaka - created history by becoming the first police personnel to get an OTP (Out-of-Turn Promotion). Her promotion came in after Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava had announced a scheme for constables and head constables who rescue over 50 children (below the age of 14) within a year would be eligible for such a promotion.
Seema went out of her way to rescue more than 76 children (56 of them were below the age of 14) in Delhi and other states like Delhi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Punjab, among others.
Aishwarya Sridhar (23) became the first Indian to win the ‘Highly Commended’ award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020. Her photo titled ‘Lights of Passion’ is the picture of a tree illuminated with fireflies, which she had clicked during a trek last year in Bhandardara, a village located in the Western Ghats of India. She competed against 50,000 entries from more than 80 countries to win this coveted prize.
She is also the youngest and the first girl to win this highly prestigious award from India in the adult category.
Women from Angrotha village, Madhya Pradesh
In a remarkable feat, 250 women from Angrotha village of Chhatarpur district in Madhya Pradesh succeeded in cutting a hill in order to resolve their ongoing water crisis. Although the government was doing all it could to resolve the issue, there was really no solution in sight. Taking charge of the situation, these women united and carved a pathway for the water to flow into the village pond – which took 18 months of hard work.
One of the biggest reasons for this initiative was to help farming activities and aid livestock in the village.
This young footballer, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir, first came in the public eye in 2017 when a picture of her pelting stones went viral. Afshan told the media that the incident took place when she was heading to a government school with her team of girls, for football practice.
When they spotted a bunch of boys stone-pelting the police, they stood there. A police official mistook one of the girls to be involved and slapped her, and that’s when the girls reacted. This is how Afshan’s photo was all over social media.
In 2020, she was yet again in the limelight, but to discuss fitness with PM Narendra Modi, at a virtual conference conducted as part of the ‘Fit India’ movement’s first anniversary, along with the likes of Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, and actor-model Milind Soman. The dialogue focused on health, nutrition and fitness, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Afshan, today, leads Kashmir’s football team and coaches other girls, helping them to break gender stereotypes and become professional sportswomen.
Age is no barrier when it comes to talent, and this is exactly what Abhijita Gupta, a seven-year-old proved during the pandemic. She released her first book ‘Happiness All Around’ in 2020, clinching the record of the world’s youngest author by the International Book of Records. She has also been given the title of the ‘Grandmaster in Writing’ by the Asia Book of Records.
Her first book is a repertoire of short stories with intricate illustrations, both of which have been done by Abhijita. The book has been published by Invincible Publisher, Gurugram.
The past has given us several opportunities to hone our skills, especially as we stayed cooped up inside our homes for the better part of the year. Arathi Reghunath, a resident of Elamakkara in Kochi, Kerala, made sure to utilise her time, and at the same time, created history in the process. She completed 350 online courses from Coursera, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) provider, which has courses developed by more than 140 of the most renowned institutions in the world.
The second-year MSc Biochemistry student from MES college reportedly completed courses offered by the University of Rochester, University of Virginia, State University of New York, John Hawkins University, and more. Arathi has created a world record that has been recognised by the Universal Record Forum.
In this age of fake news and sensationalism, it is a rarity to find journalists who do not indulge in power play and fight for the marginalised communities. This year, one of the few journalists who displayed work ethics was Tanushree Pandey (associated with India Today), who stood out for her coverage of the recent Hathras gangrape case.
Through videos taken by her news crew, she kept the entire nation aware of what was going on during the dreadful night at Hathras. Some of her videos are the only proof remaining which reveals that there were murky undertones to this case. Tanushree went after the police, asked them the right questions, and recorded the District Magistrate’s (DM) conversation with the bereaved family.
Another young girl who made history this year is Ajnaa Dvivedi, who wrote more than 20,000 words in 120 pages during the lockdown. By achieving this incredible feat, she also became one among the youngest female writers in India to publish their works. Her book, The Adventures of Anvi is published by Bigsea Marcom publishing house which publishes design magazines.
Her book titled The Adventures of Anvi sheds light on the animals of the world, who are as critical as humans. Ajnaa has created an intense plot that delves deep into the imaginary world of children, where possibilities are greater than pain.
The year 2020 has also been one of sisterhood, where several women have come forward to help their community in times of distress. One such changemaker is Talat Jahan from Bhopal, a survivor of domestic abuse and dowry-harassment. She, along with other women from Bhopal, were trained to become the city’s first female rickshaw drivers, and have provided hungry and abused women with food and other essentials during the lockdown. They delivered close to 10,000 kits of food and other essentials in the last three months.
Talat and her fellow volunteers, who belong to the Gauravi One-stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, also served as a sounding board for these victims.
In May, 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari undertook the journey from Gurugram to her village in Bihar on cycle with her injured father riding pillion. She didn’t lose heart, and continued cycling for a distance of 1,200 km, without getting affected by the scorching heat or the gaze of male workers at night. It was this remarkable feat that caught the attention of filmmakers, landing her role in a film based on her life.
The film, titled Atmanirbhar (Self reliant), is slated to be directed by Shine Sharma and will be produced under the banner of WemakeFilmz. It will be released in Hindi, English, and Maithili. The film will also have subtitles in 20 languages and will be titled, A Journey of a Migrant, for the international audience.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)