To be a change-maker one need not always be out leading a protest. Often times all young mean need is representation, women who lead lives their own way, leading change silently day after day.
Growing up there were quite a few women I believed to be not worth looking up to because that’s what I was told by grown ups around me. Over the years, I have grown to admire some of these very women. Now, I realize who we idolize is very much the result of our patriarchal society or household that doesn’t take to independent women kindly.
Here I’m listing some of the women I deeply admire for either their work in directly elevating the lives of women, or silently being the change-makers by swimming against the current.
She was one woman who was painted as everything-one’s-not-supposed-to-be growing up. There was something about her presence on the screen that was not taken to kindly. I did learn she had a child out of wedlock later on in life and of course that seemed like the worst thing a human could possibly do. Just to be clear, I had no inkling of her relationship with her partner because nobody seemed to be focussing on that either. The focus on the woman seemed aligned with my upbringing that associates a family’s reputation with a woman’s intact virginity.
Traveling around Latin America, I came across many women who chose to have a child.children outside wedlock and in fact in some places, wedding has even gotten obsolete. When I would tell them that it was culturally unheard of in India to have a child outside marriage, they were surprised. In those conversation, it occurred to me that Neena Gupta was the ONLY woman I knew (not personally, unfortunately) who did not shy away from her circumstances even though things were a lot more conservative back then.
Three decades hence, it’s still a rarity for a woman (in limelight or without) to choose motherhood outside marriage. Neena Gupta’s normalization of it is what I find incredible.
Much like Neena Gupta, I grew up learning of Rekha’s multiple husbands (five to be precise) and how she was such a witch who got them all killed. She was also painted as a home wrecker in Amitabh Bachchan’s marriage.
Today, I find Rekha extremely admirable not only because she chose not to be the ‘perpetually sad widow’ but also she completely accepts her sensuality. Her nonchalance about being a single woman who’s comfortable with her sensuality is what I find extremely admirable.
I was first exposed to Trisha Shetty’s work in 2018 when she was inducted as one of the Queen’s young leaders at Buckingham Palace. A young Indian woman at the palace did draw a lot of attention. However, it’s only in the last two years that I have delved deeper into all the amazing work she does.
Trisha Shetty is an Indian activist who advocates for gender-sensitive policies. Over the years, she had been a part of variety of projects that aims to minimize the gender gap.
Her ferocious voice that is not aligned with the popular opinion gives me great hope in the betterment of the country. And her fierceness is something I find strength in when my own is flaky.
Kamla Bhasin worked way ahead of her times. Focussing on gender equality through her work that began int he 70s. Her focus on theory and action is what I find fascinating, she regularly consulted with academics and social scientists and brought her development work experience to marry the both.
Some of her views is not something I 100% subscribe to but that doesn’t take away from all the good work she has done especially for women from the underprivileged communities.
Note: This is work-in-progress and I would continue to add names as time goes by. Meanwhile, if there’s a woman whose life you have been inspired by, please do let us know.