The year 2020 has been one of the toughest in living memory, with the world trying to fight a deadly virus by adhering to a lifestyle like never before. In India too, this year has left its scars, but a bunch of women stand out for their resilience and inspiring millions through their work.
Find out more about 10 such women here:
Over the year which was ruled by COVID-19 pandemic, Kerala Health and Social Welfare Minister KK Shailaja has been globally applauded for her impeccable leadership skills in fighting the deadly Coronavirus. The former school teacher, who joined the ministry for the first time in this government, was recently selected by the United Nations as the only representative from India to speak at a global panel on COVID-19. Fondly called Shailaja teacher, the 63-year-old has also led the relief efforts by her ministry during the Nippah virus outbreak of 2018, and during the floods that wreaked havoc during two consecutive monsoons.
The 26-year-old captain of the Indian Women’s Hockey team became the first-ever hockey player to win the prestigious 'World Games Athlete of the Year' award this year. She was also among the 118 Padma Shri awardees of 2020. Rani has played more than 200 matches for India. Last year, India won the FIH Series Finals, and Rani was named Player of the Tournament. Under Rani's leadership, the Indian women's team qualified for just the third Olympic Games in its history. Coming from a humble family in Haryana, Rani has struggled through unimaginable hardships to reach where she is today.
Bilkis (82) is one of the ‘Shaheen Bagh dadis,’ the silent leaders of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement that broke out in India last December, gaining global attention. In September, Bilkis Bano was mentioned in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most influential People list of 2020 which alongside her, has honoured game-changers like US Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, Canadian Singer The Weeknd and Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho. She was also featured in the BBC 100 Women list this year, which had also featured climate activist Riddhima Pandey, singer Isaivani, and para-badminton star Manasi Joshi from India.
A Bengaluru-based digital marketer, Mahita (38) is the founder of Caremongers India, a volunteer-driven initiative to help the elderly and needy people during the Coronavirus crisis. In a few weeks, the initiative got more than 28,000 volunteers from across the country (via social media) to help their fellow citizens with procurement and delivery of essential supplies. Caremongers India has a helpline number, which got over 350 calls within the first 24 hours of establishing it. “As soon as the lockdown was announced, we were averaging close to 900 calls and about 2000 messages daily,” she had told MAKERS India.
Minal Dakhave Bhosale
Minal Dakhave, who is the Head of R&D (Research and Development) Lab at Pune-based biotechnology startup MyLab Discovery Solutions, is credited with finding a solution for the lack of COVID-19 testing facilities in India. Minal’s brainchild, the Coronavirus test kit named PathoDetect, was born in just six weeks. Minal submitted her product at the National Institute of Virology for evaluation on March 18th, just a day before delivering her baby. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, the national regulatory agency for medical devices, gave its approval to PathoDetect, thereby strengthening India’s potential in diagnosing the disease with the first Made-in-India kit.
The actor-producer has made headline throughout the year – for the outstanding films she has produced through her production house Clean Slate Films, for taking a stand on no-cracker-Diwali and being trolled for it online, for her pregnancy, and even for her label as the ‘bad omen’ for the Indian cricket team and her husband, Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s poor performance on the field, coupled with the countless allegations of taking undue advantages of being the wife of the captain of the Indian cricket team. Yet, Anushka continues to be the confident, intelligent, graceful woman that many look up to.
Co-founder of India’s largest ed-tech startup unicorn Byju’s, Divya Gokulnath holds the distinction of being the woman entrepreneur who raised the largest amount in funding from VCs this year – and 2020 was not an easy year for Indian startups, with the economic crisis that followed the nation-wide lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Divya has told MAKERS India that equality and diversity is easier to achieve if they're integrated at the inception of a company, and today Byju’s is proud to have over 50% of women in leadership roles at its core.
Supreme Court advocate Seema Kushwaha, who represented the parents of the Delhi ‘Nirbhaya’ gang-rape victim, is set to fight the legal battle for the family of the 19-year-old gangrape victim who died in October, in Hathras village in UP. It was the much-delayed execution of the four culprits in the Nirbhaya case (who were sentenced to death in 2013), on March 20, 2020, that put Seema on the spotlight again at the beginning of this year. For the Hathras case, Bhim Army’s legal adviser MS Arya and Rajratna Ambedkar, Dr BR Ambedkar’s great grandson, will be joining Kushwaha.
India’s Para Badminton champion Manasi Joshi is nothing short of an inspiration. It was after losing her left leg in a road accident in 2011 that the youngster – instead of losing hope - started training in para-badminton under Pullela Gopichand, who has coached icons like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
In 2019, Manasi won gold in Switzerland at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championship, one of the biggest badminton tournaments. She was featured on the cover of the TIME magazine as a ‘Next Generation Leader.’ She was also honoured in the BBC 100 Women list this year.
India’s first full-time female finance minister, Nirmala Sitharam has been at the forefront of the country’s fight against COVID-19’s economic repercussions. Recently, the finance minister said that India's has enough capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines for its needs and also export it to other countries that need its help. She is also confident and is working towards ensuring that India would be a major contributor to revival of global economy after pandemic.
Gearing up for the upcoming budget, Sitharaman recently concluded pre-budget consultation meetings and said that all suggestions will be carefully considered while preparing the Budget 2021-22.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)