When I typed in a simple search term in Google to look for women leaders, I managed to come across a lot of articles. Prominent politicians, actresses, businesswomen and entrepreneurs were all featured in the list but to my surprise, none of these women were from rural India. We may talk about how India lives in its villages but we fail to acknowledge the role of women in rural India. I wanted this post to be a little different because I think it is essential for us to know the unsung leaders that come from the villages of India.
Meena Behen from Vyara in Gujurat always stood up against patriarchy and in order to ensure that the women in her village participated in the Panchayat, she stood for elections and became the first woman Sarpanch of her village. It was no easy task; some women did not approve of Meena;s choice to stand for elections but she fought against all odds. Today her village has an all women Panchayat board and these women are all set to build a government hospital for their village.
She may not be as famous or well known as compared to other women entrepreneurs but Lalfakzuali’s achievements are no less than the rest. After being divorced by her husband, she managed to leave the house with her son and returned to her father. She and her sisters wove to create puans (Mizo skirts) and beautiful shawls for a living. Slowly the business picked up and they managed to get a loan with which they bought new looms. Currently, Lalfakzual employs four other women and intends to expand her business in the future.
Former investment banker, Arati Devi chose to leave her plush job to make a difference in her village Dhunkapara in Odisha. She is considered to be the country’s youngest sarpanch and one of the most active ones too. Arati has launched a campaign to revive traditional folk art in her village and she also ensures that the benefits of the various government schemes reaches the people who need it the most.
Her work was recognized internationally when she was selected to be a part of International Visitors Leadership Program by the US Consulate to speak on the importance transparency and accountability in the government.
Any list of women leaders in rural India is incomplete without mentioning Ela Bhatt and the Self Employed Women’s Association. Started in 1972, this association helps women buy solar lamps which they can sell or rent out in their villages thus earning a source of livelihood. She was a part of co-operative and micro finance movements that brought women in the forefront and she was won the Padma Bhushan and the Ramon Magsaysay award for the work that she has done.
Thinlas Carol has the unique distinction of being the only Ladhaki women who has been trained in mountaineering. However, she wanted to change this and in 2009 she founded Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company through which she helps women earn a living by taking up mountaineering and related activites.
With this post I want each and every one of you to know that #EveryWomanIsALeader. It does not how big or how small one’s achievement is, what matters is that these women had the courage to break the shackles and do something for the society.