Throughout the history, there have been many women who broke barriers and overcame constraints to make the world a better place. From social work to politics, from being a CEO to a sports person, from the field of science to the place we call home, women have excelled in every sphere.
This International Women’s Day, we honour some women who inspire many to break barriers like they did. Bringing you stories of invaluable works of some of the women we call Shero.
Nari Shakti Award winner, Dr. A. Seema, a scientist at Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology, Kerala, came up with a chip-embedded-bra that can detect breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in India, and what’s more frightening is that 50 percent of the patients do not survive.
According to one stat, every 30 minutes a woman in India dies due to breast cancer. Looking at the situation, Dr. Seema and her team at CMET started working on this project in 2014. Finally after much efforts, they invented a Bra that has embedded chips of dimension 1mm-1mm-1.5mm (length-width-depth), called as probes.
These probes help in producing thermal images of cancerous cells, if any and thus identify the cancer at initial stages. The test takes 15-30 minutes to complete after which information from the probes is extracted.
Dr. Seema says that they have struck a number of targets in single stroke. The product is cost effective and can be available to common public at an affordable price of INR 200. It is also radiation proof and can be used by women of every age group. Till now the other option was Mammography, which was advisable for women above the age of 40 only. The mammogram machine costs more than 3 crore, whereas this new system can come under only 8000 rupees.
No doubt it is a magnificent invention, especially in a developing country like India where women health is not taken proper care of.
Raised in the beautiful terrains of Takmachik, Ladakh, Thinlas Chorol was born to a farmer family who later got awarded with Government’s Nari Shakti Awards, and UN’s Women Transforming India in 2018. After class 10th, she joined SECMOL’s (Student’s Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) travel agency, Around Ladakh with Students (ALS) where her job was limited to guide the tourists to monastery and cultural places.
When ALS had stopped functioning, Thinlas got depended on freelancing but it did not help her case as the prejudice of ‘woman not being able to endear a physically demanding job’ was still letting most of the jobs slip out of her hands.
Thinlas did not step back and decided to pursue a mountaineering course at Nehru Mountaineering Institute in 2007, and subsequently took a diploma in wilderness and leadership skills at National Outdoor Leadership Skills.
Finally, She hit back with all here experience, qualification, and knowledge, and founded Ladakhi Women’s Traveling Company, which is owned and operated solely by women.
Her pioneering work allowed her to empower many rural young girls and needy women to get employment. Soon her company became favorites among female tourists. Today, LWTC constitutes of 30 women personnels who share different roles in the organization.
Dr. Shweta Rawat was awarded with National Award Young Woman Showing Excellence through Application of Technology for Societal Benefits by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on the occasion of National Science Day on February 28.
She has a PhD in Anthropology from University of Delhi, and is currently working for the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), DRDO as scientist.
Alongside her team, Dr Rawat has developed a full body protector called Prabla, specific to female anatomy. So far women personnel have been subjected to use heavy and oversized full body protectors designed for men. Her team collaborated with Rapid Action Force (RAF) to develop this gear for the female troops deployed in riot control work.
Anthropometric data was used while designing these gears and it ensures protection of vital organs and covers all vulnerable parts of the female body like the rib-cage, back of the arm, inner calf, thigh and groin. The gear also has specific properties, such as anti-stab, anti-puncture, flame retardant and acid resistance. The gear is available in all sizes and uses the same material as that used in male body protectors. It is designed to better suit the female body and provide the female troops with higher flexibility, mobility and comfort.
Regarded as “the mother of Modern Indian English Poetry” by The Times, Kamala Surayya was born in the Malabar district of British India (today’s Kerala) in 1934. She was a poet and a writer who brought up the issues of female experiences about menstruation, puberty, sexuality, child marriage, and infidelity. She touched the issues which existed but were unacknowledged. Her honesty made it difficult for the society to digest her content but she continued to be herself, unapologetically.
Kamala had picked up the zeal to become a poet at a very early age. It was in 1960s when she began making her name known, courtesy of popular works like The Summer in Calcutta, The Descendants, and various poems in Malayalam language. It was then she started using her popular pen name, Madhavikutty.
In 1973, in a series of columns in Malyalam, together considered as her autobiography, Ente Katha (later published in English as My Story), Kamala produced her ‘best work’ as well as something, which in her words ‘ruined her life’. The autobiography is considered today a classic for its openness and daringly bold nature, but at that time became a controversial subject.
The situation was such that Kamala had to shift to Maharashtra from Kerala. Seeing the outrage she famously quoted, “people are not hurt but they are pretending to be hurt in order to prove their innocence”.
She was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984, and has received many honors, notably Kendra Sahitya Academy, Pen Asian Poetry Prize, and Asian World Prize for Literature.
Kamala converted to Islam in 1999. She died in 2009 at the age of 75.
Durgabai Deshmukh is hailed as the mother of social work in India. She was a skilled lawyer, a prominent freedom fighter, an advocate of women's rights, and a propagator of social welfare.
She was born on July 15, 1909, in Andhra Pradesh, to a middle-class family. At 8 years old, she was married off to a wealthy zamindar. At 15, with the support of her father and younger brother, she divorced her husband.
In 1921, when Gandhi visited Kakinada for a Town Hall gathering where she arranged a meeting between him and the local Devadasi and Muslim women community to discuss their plight. Subsequently, Deshmukh quit school, protesting against the imposition of English in education and vouched to wear only hand-spun khadi along with her family.
She was arrested from 1930 to 1933, spending a year in solitary confinement. During her time in prison, she was exposed to unfair treatment of women in prison and decided to pursue criminal law. She was accepted in Madras Bar in 1942 and fought to curb the wrongful convictions and unjust treatment of women in prison.
As a member of the Constituent Assembly, she defended women's property rights under the Hindu Code Bill. She also advocated the establishment of family courts. She was inducted in the Planning commission as an incharge of social welfare.
Deshmukh became the first chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) in 1953 and the National Council on Women's Education, established in 1988. She also founded Andhra Mahila Sabha that still functions today with 28 branches including colleges, schools, and hospitals. She has been awarded Padma Vibhushan, UNESCO Award for outstanding work in the field of literacy, Nehru literacy Award and Paul G. Hoffman Award, among others.