Every successful revolution that has made a lasting impact has one common factor – inclusion of every stakeholder. For women’s empowerment too, the movement can be successful only with the participation of the entire gender spectrum, especially men – who, undeniably, have most power. As the awareness on the need for gender equality rises, it is heartening to see more men joining the cause – whether on daily lives, or on social media, fighting misogyny and building a better tomorrow.
On November 19, as we celebrate International Men’s Day, we applaud a few men in India who have actively spoken up for women’s empowerment. As entrepreneurs and philanthropists, these veterans have become role models for generations to come.
As India’s ‘pad man,’ Arunachalam Muruganantham started a revolution when he invented an easy-to-use machine for producing low-cost sanitary pads. In turn, the machine created jobs for women in rural India, who can now manufacture and export them to developing countries all over the world. The Padma Shri winner from Tamil Nadu says, “My plea is that don't wait for a girl to become a woman to empower them. Empower a girl's life by giving sanitary pads to them. With pads, we give them wings.” He also advocates for awareness on menstrual hygiene among men as well. “We keep discussing nuclear power and other issues, but we should spare a thought to the basic needs of our women.”
The former Chairman of Wipro was listed among the 100 most influential people for two years by TIME magazine. In 2013, he signed The Giving Pledge to donate at least half of his wealth, a campaign started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. So far, this 74-year-old has donated more than $21 billion to Azim Premji Foundation, an education-focused non-profit he founded in 2001. Under the Azim Premji Philanthropy Foundation, PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research) trains rural women in IT so as to upskill them. Advocating for girls’ education, Premji says, “A girl child who is even a little bit educated is more conscious of family planning, health care and, in turn, her children's own education.”
Naturals salon chain co-founder Kumaravel has often said that it was his wife Veena’s refusal to be a housewife was the beginning of Naturals in 2000. A company now worth Rs 400 crore, Chennai-based Naturals now enables more than 440 women entrepreneurs with more than 600 outlets and thousands of employees. “People call me an expert in women empowerment. But I am not. I am a beneficiary of women entrepreneurship,” Kumaravel happily says. According to him, the best fashion statement for a woman is to stand on her own feet. “It is foolish to think that women are equal to men; they are much superior to men,” he has said.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma
Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma believes that women empowerment should be a mainstream agenda for all of us, and not just a couple of associations. The 41-year-old billionaire maintains that without leveraging women’s skills that can make contributions to economy, India will never become what we dream of becoming one day. According to him, women’s capabilities are often underestimated when they are doing something for their own satisfaction as homemakers. “Women going to work should be a revolution we bring about in this country; we need at least one woman in every board of directors. If we want India to be a $5 trillion economy soon, I call upon every woman to be a contributor,” Vijay has said.
NR Narayana Murthy
Infosys founder and self-made billionaire NR Narayana Murthy has stated that whenever he goes for a convocation address in any university or IITs in India, he finds more women winning gold medals then men. He believes that more women researchers will help improve the quality of research in India. “Therefore, we have to create an environment where it is easy for our women researchers to continue their pursuit even after they get married, and even after they have children. This a social issue, rather than a problem of the research institutes. In our society, we have to create mechanisms whereby qualified, bright women researchers have no hindrance at all to continue their research focus.”