International women’s Day is celebrated in the hopes to raise awareness about the challenges, struggles, and shocking inequality faced by women in every aspect of their lives. Degrading and intelligence-questioning-comments are slipped into normal conversations with such subtlety that it may take a while for the woman to realise that she was just subjected to humiliation.
But International women’s day is also meant to celebrate women’s history, highlight key events, milestones and achievements (which were made despite various obstacles), and aims to further promote and raise awareness of women’s rights and to achieve equal opportunity status in all walks of life.
The status of women throughout the world has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. Women have held high offices including that of the President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of the opposition, Union ministers, chief ministers and governors.
Let’s look at the progress few of the many strong women – who were fortunate enough to get the opportunity – have made in various fields, and by doing so paved way to the present and coming generations.
Where have women taken the world in terms of…
Rajeshwari Chatterjee was the first woman engineer from Karnataka. In 1946, she was given a scholarship by the (then) Govt of Delhi to study abroad, and studied at the University of Michigan where she obtained her Master’s degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering. After obtaining a Ph.D degree, she returned to India and joined the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering at IISc as a faculty member where she along with her husband set up a microwave research laboratory where they did pioneering work on Microwave Engineering
Charusita Chakravarty was an Indian scientist and a chemistry professor at the Indian Institute of Technology. She was awarded Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, for the study of chemical science. She was also conferred with the B.M Birla Science Award.
In addition, Charusita also served as an Associate Member at the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research and Center for Computational Material Science, in Bangalore.
Jennifer Doudna is one of the most culturally significant scientists studying today. She helped developed CRISPR, the genetic-engineering method that may allow for ‘designer babies’ but also for the eradication or treatment of sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and HIV. She is presently a professor at UC Berkeley.
Serena Jameka Williams is an American expert tennis player at present positioned as the 22nd best player on the planet by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)
Williams is hailed by many coaches, players and sportscasters to be one of the best female tennis players in the Open Era. Her numerous victories on court have largely been a positive influence on young girls and boys who see Williams as a role model and an ambassador of tennis. Some commentators, players and sports writers regard Williams as the greatest female tennis player of all time.
In some ways, Mithali is the one of the most successful Indian cricket captain and she has done what she did with half the recognition her male counterparts are given.
The captain of Indian cricket team, Mithali is the highest scorer in women’s international cricket and the only female cricketer to surpass the 6,000 run mark in ODIs. Mithali is also the only Indian cricket captain – male or female – to lead India to the World Cup final twice.
The first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal, Saina Nehwal can totally be credited for making the sport so popular in the country. She is the first female and the second Indian shuttler to be ranked first in the world and has been awarded with Arjuna Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan for her achievements.
Wafaa El-Sadr is known for her efforts in helping research and develop programs relating to HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases. She has led studies through private foundations and New York State and New York City Departments of Health, as well as the National Institutes of Health. Recently, she has focused on highlighting the impact of HIV, and has established the Domestic prevention working group.
Dr Padmavati Iyer
Often called as the god of cardiology in India, Dr Padmavati Sivaramakrishna Iyer, who turned 101 this year, is as active now as she was when she started training patients in India 60 years ago. Her profound knowledge and enthusiasm helped her create the whole concept of heart treatment in India from scratch.
Apart from being the first Indian woman cardiologist, she also created the first cardiology department in a medical institute and founded India’s first heart foundation meant to spread awareness about diseases of the heart. Under her guidance, Indian cardiology expanded by leaps and bounds.
Asima Chatterjee is popularly known for her research in vinca alkaloids. An organic chemist in the fields of phyto-medicine and organic chemistry, Asima’s remarkable work includes development of anti-malarial drugs and anti-epileptic drugs.
She has also produced a substantial number of works on Indian medicinal plants. Asima is also the first woman to obtain a Science Doctorate from a renowned Indian University.
4. Business and economy
Ginni Rometty is chairman, president and chief executive officer of IBM. And the first woman to head the company. Since becoming CEO in January 2012, Ginni has led IBM through the most significant transformation in its history, reinventing the company to lead in the new era of AI, blockchain, cybersecurity and quantum technologies.
At the age of 47, she became the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank. She holds the highest post for the largest private bank and the overall largest in the country. She is one of the leading women in India’s banking sector. Forbes gave her a world ranking of 43 among the most powerful woman of the modern world. She was also named as one of the Top 100 Influential People in the world by Time magazine this year.
At the age of 61 , Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is the managing head of the Bangalore-based Biotechnology company, Bicon Limited. She is also the acting head of IIM Bangalore. Forbes named her the world’s 92nd most powerful woman and Financial Times featured her as the top 50 women in the world of business. She was the winner of the Othmer Gold Award in 2014
The first female prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi was in power in 1966-77 and 1980-84. Accused of being a dictator, she only narrowly avoided a military coup by agreeing to hold an election at the end of the emergency period.
She was assassinated in 1984 by her own Sikh bodyguards who were angered over her decision to storm the sacred Sikh Golden Temple, which left many innocent pilgrims dead. Nevertheless, she left a legacy of human rights reforms and economic policy credited for India’s rise today as a world power.
The first female prime minister of a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto helped to move Pakistan from a dictatorship to democracy.
She also sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor. She was forced out of office on corruption charges which she adamantly denied and of which she was absolved.
She was assassinated two weeks before an election she was expected to win. Although she suffered great frustration as she fought to bring democracy and freedom to Pakistan, she remains an inspiration for her determination to improve conditions in her homeland in the face of impossible odds.
She is the Indian Foreign Service officer and former Indian Ambassador to the United States. Before this Rao was also the Foreign Secretary of India.
She is the Second woman to be a part of Indian Foreign Service. Besides being a spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry, she was also the minister of Press Affairs in Washington.
The films based on her book series have received numerous Academy Awards
J.K. Rowling has captured our hearts and our imaginations through the fantastical world of Harry Potter, the beginnings of which she says came to her while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London. With movie adaptations taking home billions from box offices around the world, Rowling’s books are not only popular, but they touch readers with themes of acceptance, love, and courage. Thank god for delayed trains!
Ilavenil Meena Kandasamy
Ilavenil Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, activist and currently one of India’s boldest young voices. Most of her works are centered on feminism and the Caste annihilation movement of the contemporary Indian milieu. She has published two anthology of poems, “Touch” and “Ms Militancy”, and a novel “The Gypsy Goddess”. Her most recent work – “When I Hit You Or A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife” is a dazzling novel of an abusive marriage.
One of India’s most noted authors and human rights activist. Arundhathi Roy was awarded the ‘Man Booker Prize’ for “The God Of Small Things” – her debut fiction novel. After winning the Booker, she has published a wide range of non-fiction which covers topics from the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to a condemnation of India’s nuclear tests. “The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness” released in 2017 marked her return to fiction after a 20-year-long hiatus.
The feisty Priya Jhingan was the first lady cadet to join the Indian Army. A law graduate, Priya had always dreamt of joining the army. She wrote a letter to the Army Chief himself, asking him to let women in. A year later, he did, and Jhingan and the other 24 new female recruits began their journey. When she retired, she said, “It’s a dream I have lived every day for the last 10 years.”
Padmavathy Bandopadhyay was the first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force. Not only that, she was the first woman officer to become an aviation medicine specialist, the first woman to conduct scientific research at the North Pole – she studied the physiology of extreme cold acclimatization during the late 80s – and the first woman to be promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and, last but not the least, she was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal for her meritorious service during the Indo-Pak conflict.
Fatima Zohra Ardjoune
Fatima Zohra Ardjoune, director general of the Ain Naâdja military hospital, was promoted to general, the first woman in the Algerian People’s National Army (PNA) and in the Arab world to reach this rank. Three years later, Fatima Boudouani became the second woman to be promoted to the rank of general in the PNA and she was followed by three more women, making Algeria the first Arab country with the biggest number of high-ranking female army commanders. Aardjoun’s promotion reflects a growing trend of Algerian women taking more prominent positions in the workforce, most notably in the police and military.