Amazing Indian women who dreamt big: Discouragements are a part of the journey that we need to embark on to achieve our goals. However, for women these discouragements are often rooted in long held stereotypes and stigmas associated with their gender. Aurat hai, business kaise chalaegi? Who would want to marry a woman cricketer- it will decrease your prospects. If you focus on your career, who will take care of your husband and children? It is not about the question mark that is put on their capabilities, it is also about society’s reluctance to give women an equal right to having flourishing careers, and conditioning men to be better partners instead. Women are told to dream of stability and comfort, not success.
However there are numerous women who have broken these stigmas by making it big in the field of their choice. These women didn’t just dream for themselves, they dreamt for millions of young Indian girls, giving them wings to fly high. We must celebrate the achievements of these amazing women because they told little girls that they can do anything if they put their head and heart to it. As for the society, well it will course correct and learn to align with you and your life. Don’t let anyone tell you what you are capable of, what you can do, and why you are not the right person for a job. You decide that for yourself.
Here are eight Indian women who didn’t let their circumstances or society define their careers and life:
1. Kalpana Chawla
What has she achieved: Kalpana Chawla is every modern-day girl’s inspiration to achieve her dreams. She is the first Indian woman to step into space as an American astronaut.
What are the difficulties she faced: Chawla was born in the state of Haryana in India. Even though she belonged to a poverty-stricken family, but neither that nor the fact that no Indian woman had been in space before, stopped “Monto” from achieving her dreams.
2. Mithali Raj
What has she achieved: Mithali Raj is the Indian Women’s Cricket team captain and an inspiration to many. The 38-year old cricketer holds the record of being the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket. And also the only female cricketer to make 7,000 runs in Women’s One Day International matches.
What are the difficulties she faced: Her journey in cricket started with a lot of discouraging remarks from society, which considered cricket to be a man’s game. Raj also shared how the members of her extended family were not very impressed with her desires to be a cricketer. She has gone on record to say her aunts and grandparents were unsure of a girl entering a ‘rough’ sport.
“She will play with boys, will get tanned,” Raj said in an interview.
3. Mary Kom
What has she achieved: Mary Kom is a well-known name in the sport of boxing. She has won the World Boxing championship six times and was also declared as the World No. 1 female light-flyweight by the International Boxing Association. Kom is the first Indian woman to win Gold in boxing in the Commonwealth games.
What are the difficulties she faced: Many of us have seen the movie Mary Kom and know that Kom’s father wasn’t keen on her decision of entering boxing. In fact, he had also burned her boxing gloves one day. So before giving up think about whether that stopped Mary Kom from winning the World Boxing championship six times?
4. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
What has she achieved: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is the chairperson and founder of Biocon. Today her company is one of the leading Indian biopharmaceutical companies in the world. She was also the former chairperson of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
What are the difficulties she faced: Business is something that a man does, she was told. Women are often looked at as people who do a 9 to 5 job and have other burdens like family and children. But breaking stereotypes is entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder of Biocon. She faced many problems like difficulty raising bank loan, challenges in recruiting the right talent and other problems to overcome.
5. Hima Das
What has she achieved: Hima Das, the Indian sprinter, became a national sensation at the early age of 18 years. Das was someone who was often told that sports are for someone rich. But despite the discouragement, she did not lose hope and ran barefoot till today when Hima Das has her name on the Adidas shoes.
What are the difficulties she faced: She is a daughter of a rice farmer and comes from a humble background. In fact, when Hima Das told her mother that she won the 400m race at the Federation Cup at the Commonwealth Games, she reacted by saying, “Commonwealth Games? What’s that? Will you be on TV? Then it’s probably a good thing.”
6. Dipa Karmakar
What has she achieved: Dipa Karmakar, the young gymnast who has already made it to history books faced a lot of difficulties too while pursuing the career of their dreams.
What are the difficulties she faced: Karmakar had flat foot, which is a medical condition that is considered to be a disastrous thing for a gymnast. Society and her extended family members also said that she’ll lose the flexibility once she starts ageing and that gymnastics is not a long term profession but that did not stop Dipa Karmakar from achieving the goals of her life.
7. Tessy Thomas
What has she achieved: Tessy Thomas, also known as the Agniputri and the ‘Missile Woman of India’, even when engineering and space research was seen as a man’s profession. Anand Mahindra, the chairman of Mahindra Group once said, “Tessy deserves to be more famous than the biggest Bollywood star. A poster of Tessy in every Indian school will wreck stereotypes and create enormous career aspirations for girls.”
What are the difficulties she faced: Thomas also once shared facing many difficulties while pursuing the field of their interest. She said encouraging other women, “Woman must go an extra mile to attain goals.” In another interview, she shared how gender bias was still there even in educated people.
8. Geeta Kumari Phogat
What has she achieved: Geeta Phogat, the woman wrestler who won gold for the country in the Commonwealth Games of 2010 in wrestling. Phogat is the also first Indian female wrestler to have qualified for the Olympic Summer Games. She is highly respected as a woman wrestler today.
What are the difficulties she faced: To the ones who have seen the movie Dangal based on the life of the wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat, you probably know about the kind of struggle the two have faced. While growing up in the village in Haryana, society viewed girls as burdens and were only subjected to household work. Some of the girls were even married off at a very young age like 14. Even as society persisted, Phogat’s family resisted. Her family was extensively criticised and told that wrestling isn’t meant for women.