On International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8th, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi garnered attention by giving up his social media handle to seven Indian women who have won the country’s respect. On Modi’s personal Twitter handle, these seven women on Sunday talked about their personal journeys and responded to questions from the Twitterati. Find out more about these seven women here:
In 2015, Chennai-based Sneha, who was then 23, opened up a Food Bank in the capital city of Tamil Nadu, aiming to feed the poor and the homeless with nutritious, home-made food. The initiative started off as a Facebook group with Malvika’s close friends and family, who would cook extra food for the poor while they cook at home for their own families. Once the food is packed and ready, they would alert Sneha online, and her volunteers would pick it up and distribute it to the hungry poor. Food Bank India now has over 20 chapters across cities.
Disability rights activist Malvika Iyer, 30, lost both her hands in a grenade explosion, when she was just 13 years old. It was after multiple painful surgeries over the next two years that Malvika got prosthetic hands and could walk with crutches. Not one to give up, she went on to finish higher studies and even got a doctorate in social work. As a motivational speaker, Malvika is now a globe trotter and is recognised as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. She is a regular at UN summits, for advocating gender equality and inclusivity in public spaces.
This Hyderabad-based architect is the champion of rainwater harvesting in the water-starved city. She volunteers with the Society for Advancement of Human Endeavour (SAHE) for her cause. From residential apartments to corporate office complexes, she promotes water conservation through SAHE’s ‘Save 10K Bores’ campaign, which was launched in 2016. It advocates for recycling grey water and saving rain water, thereby reducing dependence on tankers. Under Kalpana’s leadership, this campaign has also revived many defunct borewells in the city. Even inside the gated community she lives in, Kalpana is pro-active in encouraging waste segregation and home composting.
For 25 years, Kanpur-based mason Kalavati Devi has been on a mission to build toilets for India. As the country aspires to be a superpower yet struggles with providing basic facilities for its citizens, Kalavati is taking matters into her hands – literally. This 55-year-old collects funds from across houses as well as works with NGOs to construct toilets in the economically weaker neighbourhoods outside Kanpur, all by herself. Although she was married off as a child bride and never got to finish formal education, Kalavati has developed her own construction techniques for sewers.
Kashmir-based Arifa Jan, who goes by her first name, has led women artisans in the politically volatile state to earn for themselves by reviving the dying tradition of Namda craft - used to produce rugs, mats, and blankets out of wool. In an interaction with the Prime Minister which was telecast later, Arifa said that the internet ban in her State – which was imposed more than six months ago – has destroyed her business. Although low-speed mobile internet is now available in the State, it will take a long time for the 75 women working under Arifa in Namda and pashmina embroidery to recover from the damage.
Banjara handicrafts from Maharashtra has had a new lease of life in the past few years, thanks to Vijaya Pawar who has been toiling to this end for 20 years. Along with bringing back this dying art, which belongs to the nomadic tribe of Banjaras, Vijaya was also able to provide employment to more than thousand women in her region, as practitioners of Gormati art.
Bihar-based farmer Veena Devi is a crusader for organic farming, which she successfully implemented in mushroom cultivation at her own home. A village sarpanch from Munger district in the economically backward State, Veena has led actively promoted organic farming and mushroom cultivation in her district, thereby making many women self-employed and financially empowered. Reportedly, she has been active in promoting not just organic farming but digital literacy too.