Youth Inc’s list of some powerful women who have played a major role in shaping how the world looks at the ‘weaker gender’
Oprah Winfrey (1954 – Present)
A household name around the world, this television show host, businesswoman and philanthropist overcame an impoverished childhood and went on to build a media empire. The self-made woman’s rags to- riches story is an inspiration to many. The Oprah Winfrey Foundation has been committed to empowering women, children and families for years on end. “I am a woman in process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience and learn from it. Life is never dull.”
Kalpana Chawala (1961 – 2003)
The Indian-American NASA astronaut was one of the seven crew members who were killed in the Columbia space shuttle disaster. She died a role model for the youth. She often visited her hometown Karnal, where she encouraged girls to follow in her footsteps. Her achievements in aerospace engineering will forever be remembered. “You are just your intelligence.”
Margaret Thatcher (1925 – Present)
She wasn’t known as the ‘Iron Lady’ for nothing! Margaret Thatcher became Europe’s first female Prime Minister and the only British Prime Minister to serve three consecutive terms. She worked against a fair amount of resistance and strived to turn Britain into a free-market economy. “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”
Sonia Gandhi (1946 – Present)
The Italian-born leader of India’s most powerful political party has been a dominant force in the country since the 1990s. With political skills like hers, anyone would think she had been born a Gandhi. “Investing in women is the highest-return venture. Even a small investment in women has great economic, political and social reverberations.”
Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)
Of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, Mother Teresa took care of the poor, sick, orphaned and dying throughout India and later in other countries. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in 1950. In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize and the Bharat Ratna in 1980. Following her death, she was bestowed the title ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’. ”Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Melinda Gates (1964 – Present)
The American businesswoman and philanthropist is the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to improve healthcare, education and reduce poverty globally. She previously worked with Microsoft, playing a huge role in developing products like Encarta and Expedia. “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. The search to find that voice can be difficult. It’s complicated. In most nations, women receive substantially less education than men.”
The Real India Women (Women’s Day Special)
A whole new breed o f women is making it big in different fields from business to politics, right up to fashion- in India. They are a young batch of confident go-getters who aren’t afraid of starting new ventures or crossing boundaries. Youth Inc. rounds up the country’s young achievers girl power to the fullest!
The Scaler Of Heights
At 19, Krushnaa Patil became the youngest Indian woman to climb Mount Everest. The quest to scale heights began when she got hooked to mountaineering after doing summer courses. The very next year she found herself climbing it! The next two years saw her scale six of the world’s highest peaks, one in every continent! India is proud of Patil who went on to become the first Indian woman to climb Mount Vison Massif in Antarctica. Krushnaa also accompanied her fellow-mountaineer on a biking expedition from Kolkata to Kanyakumari in an attempt to empower women through adventure. She is inspired by Indira Gandhi, characters from Ayn Rand’s books and Rihanna.
WHY: As she prepares for her Kanchenjunga expedition she says, “Follow your dreams, however bizarre they may be or however much people say it’s not worth it. Even if you don’t succeed you will learn things you never would have learnt otherwise!”
The New-Age Sarpanch
She left the dog-eat-dog corporate world to return to her village in Rajasthan where she was nominated as its sarpanch. A graduate from Lady Shriram College with an MBA from IIMM in Pune, Rajawat has worked with several corporate houses in the past. She represents the arrival of the educated woman in grassroots politics. In the recent past, she spent a good deal of time building water harvesting structures to ensure safe drinking water for villagers. As one would expect she has indeed battled male prejudice and distrust from people around. But, the persistent woman that she is, Rajawat continues to battle on.
“Don’t run away from your roots because that’s your foundation and the nation’s foundation too. If you want to make a difference, you’ve got to start at the bottom. There is so much that one can do.”
The All Rounder
She has accomplished more than the average 19-year-old has, all the while being independent, curious and impulsive. Charu Sharma represented India in taekwondo, travelled on research expeditions across all seven continents that included exploring the rain forests of Australia and studying penguin species in Antarctica! That’s not all; in 2003 she was awarded the National Bravery Award for thwarting purse-snatching goons on a Mumbai train. And, this is just one of the five national awards and 1000 other awards that she has in her kitty! This go-getter has not only excelled in the field of academics but also in extra-curricular activities such as athletics, dance and theatre. The young achiever is a part of an equestrian, dance and debate team at Mount Holyoke College, USA where she is currently studying.
WHY: “I love what I do and I do what I love. This is what keeps me going. I have developed an attitude to see the silver lining on every cloud. Believe in yourself and follow your heart. If you don’t know what your heart wants, just have faith and remember that the dots will connect in the end!”
The Tech Queen
At the age of 24, Devita Saraf launched VU Technologies a luxury technology brand. In spite of growing up in the midst of technology (her father is the Chairman and MD of Zenith Computers and her elder brother, the CEO of Zenith Infotech) she has always been interested in gadgets herself, particularly in consumer technology, product design and human interface. She has been inspired by great queens such as Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Queen Elizabeth I and Cleopatra. Part of MENSA and an Odissi dancer, Saraf believes that enthusiasm is the recipe for her success and that wanting to build a brand, launch a product, engage her team in a new innovation, design an ad and more can only be done well and fast if one has the enthusiasm to see one’s ideas come to life.
WHY: She feels that business growth is imperative to keep up with large competitors and at the same time be innovative and profitable. After successfully bringing luxury to the world of technology in India, she is looking at expanding the company to four times its size this year! “It is nice being in a man’s world if you are leading it! The technology industry has respectful and educated people who do not differentiate between man and woman. Your career growth depends on your knowledge, hard work, ability to innovate and lead. This is equally hard for a man or woman. When dealing with the grey market for televisions or some government departments, one does find that they don’t take women seriously. I just lay low and let my hard work prove itself rather than hold any bias about women’s rights,” explains Saraf.
Fashion’s Fearless Femme
Every fashionista’s dream, Masaba Gupta is considered to be one of the most promising gen-next designers to hit the Indian fashion scene. She may be the daughter of actress Neena Gupta and cricketer Vivian Richards, but she is a self-made woman. Most of her collections are based on her mixed heritage. She is known to feel passionately about women empowerment, not with regards to the activist zeal, but more on the lines of the fun, fearless and powerful kind. Her fashion label reflects this with the use of vibrant colours, bold bindis, Nehru waistcoats and saris with pockets. This SNDT graduate was a state-level tennis player and is a promising soccer player too!
WHY: “Being Neena Gupta’s daughter doesn’t bother me. You always have to be in that shadow for a while until you branch out. It doesn’t affect me because I think I have made my own identity with my clothes and a name for myself, even though I’ll always be called Neena Gupta’s daughter.”
Volume 1 Issue 9