On the eve of International Women’s Day 2022, meet 5 women who in a decidedly gender unequal world, are exemplifying how to defy glass ceilings and lead empowered and inspiring lives. With their work and their lives, they are showing us how we can come together to #BreakTheBias, which happens to be the campaign theme of Women’s Day in 2022.
These sheroes have shown that women are just as capable as men and can achieve anything they put their mind to. These women have not only achieved great individual milestones but also made significant contributions to the society to impact it positively. Let us celebrate this day with these women who dare us to dream bigger and imagine a more gender inclusive and diverse world.
1. Rani Rampal
One of the most inspiring figures of the 2020 Olympics was Indian hockey skipper Rani Rampal. Having risen from impossible odds, hers is a triumphant story of hope and courage. The daughter of a cart puller, Rani was just 15, when she became the youngest player in the national team participating in the 2010 World Cup.
She went on to play over 212 international matches, scored 134 goals and today is one of the most successful captains to have ever led India. This Padma Shri awardee was part of Indian Hockey Team that team qualified for 2016 Rio Olympics after 36 years and it was under her leadership that India reached in the semifinal in 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the first time.
2. Dia Mirza
From being a teen beauty queen and winning the title of Miss Asia Pacific International in 2000, Dia Mirza has gone on to become an actor, producer, a UN Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador and an advocate of Sustainable Development Goals. She is today not just known for her vibrant film career that began in 2001 with the film ‘Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein’, but also for lending her voice to environmental causes. While nurturing her son Avyaan, who she gave birth to in 2021, Dia has managed to keep her work in other areas going strong.
On her 40th birthday, she donated Rs. 40 lakh,to the families of frontline forest workers who lost their lives in the pandemic and has also invested in sustainable businesses like wooden toy brand Shumee and an eco-friendly home care brand Beco. She is always ready to speak up and show up for a cause, be it Cancer Patients Aid Association and Spastics Society of India. Today, this remarkable changemaker is respected not just for her stardom but for her persistent efforts to make a positive difference.
3. Supriya Patil
In a world cluttered with influencers, Supriya Patil is a passionate environmentalist and change maker who strives to bring about grassroots change by synergising with local communities corporates and individuals to pull off massive afforestation missions. She works as the head of partnerships and projects at Grow-Trees, a social organisation based in Mumbai.
Armed with a Master’s degree in Environment Science and a post-graduation degree in Urban Environmental Management, she is the force behind initiatives such as the plantation of over 870,000 trees to protect tiger habitats which have gone on to also provide livelihood opportunities to rural populations that heavily rely on forest produce for financial stability. With her work, and her pathbreaking green ideas, she encourages more women to join the environment movement and help the planet heal.
4. Gitanjali Singh
Working for Visionet Systems as the head of sales and strategy, Gitanjali Singh is one of the the most successful tech leaders in India’s IT sector and is an inspirational figure for women hoping to join the tech industry. In order to open a pathway to employment opportunities for India’s youth, including its underutilised female talent, she threw her weight behind a skilling initiative, ‘Unnati for India’ which aims to make the country’s young people employable. Singh was also in charge of setting up a sales team in India that catered to the competitive American market and delivered astonishing results.
Despite initial doubts about how an offshore team could successfully close sales, she developed a team of revenue-generating executives who have now expanded the business like never before. She has worked hard to identify and correct process flaws and has shown that no glass ceiling can stop a determined woman.
5. Poonam Muttreja
Poonam Muttreja is the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, a nonprofit organisation committed to empowering underserved citizens, especially women and adolescents with information and support. Poonam has worked for over 36 years and tirelessly engaged in public advocacy to increase awareness regarding sexual health and women’s rights over their bodies and lives. Her work strives to be intersectional and she is one of the founder members of SRUTI – Society for Rural Urban and Tribal Initiative and also co-founded craft collective Dastkar.
She was also one of the driving forces behind Nagrik Ekta Manch, a relief effort that helped Sikh victims of the 1984 violence. Poonam also co-conceived the popular edutainment serial, ‘Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon.