Women have played an integral role in Indian history from ancient times.
We find that in the Vedic or Upanishadic age Maitreyi, Gargi, and others
ladies of revered memory have taken the places of rishis through their
skill in discussing about Brahman. In an assembly of a thousand
Brahmanas who were all erudite in the Vedas, Gargi boldly challenged
Yajnabalka in a discussion about Brahman.
In pre-independence times also, women have led the charge for
educational and social upliftment causes. In 1950, India was one of the
few countries in the world to grant universal adult suffrage to its
citizens. Women paved the way for a young India’s development. And
today, we see women leading our Government, businesses, sports, armed
forces and even in real rocket science. Women are breaking the glass
ceiling and setting our standards higher every day.
The Nari Shakti Puraskar, instituted in 1999 is a way for us to
recognize women who have exceeded expectations to challenge the status
quo and make a lasting contribution to women’s empowerment. The
Government of India confers these awards on individuals and institutions
in recognition of their service to the cause of women. The outstanding
contributions in the field of women development & upliftment by way of
being role models are of primary consideration in identifying the
recipients of Puraskar.
This year’s Nari Shakti Awards are being conferred on women and
institutions that represent a variety of fields. Having received an
overwhelming number of applications, the Ministry of Women and Child
Development has chosen candidates who are leaders in sectors as varied
as social entrepreneurship, art, horticulture, yoga, environmental
conservation, journalism, dance, social work, science and technology.
Women have made a mark in each of these sectors both at the national and
international level, proving to the world that gender is not a
limitation to success. These awardees are breaking new frontiers in
emerging fields such as building social enterprises, promoting organic
consumption and working for the creation of a sustainable environment.
It is encouraging to see women lead this charge, making lasting
impressions that will set the course for future developments.
These awardees have challenged stereotypes associated with women, by
being torchbearers in fields such as space research, railways,
motorcycling and mountaineering. They have not only made inroads, but
also excelled in sectors that have historically not seen the
participation of many women. The Scientists and Engineers from ISRO, Ms.
Mumtaz Kazi, the first diesel train driver, Ms. Pallavi Fauzdar, the
motorcyclist & Ms. Sunita Choken, the mountaineer are examples for young
India to follow in their footsteps and pursue their dreams, no matter
what they may be. In fact the winners represent the face of a changing
The Government has awarded women and institutions that are working for
the cause of vulnerable and marginalized women, including those facing
violence, improving the Child Sex Ratio, providing livelihood
opportunities to encourage women’s economic independence, working for
the development of women farmers and bringing real development to the
remotest corners of the country. The institutions Chhanv Foundation,
Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti, Sadhana Mahila Sangha and Dr.
Kalpana Sankar through her organization ‘Hand in Hand’ have worked at
the grassroots level for the betterment of women in the society.
The awardees have proven that innovative ideas can often transcend
situational limitations. Facing a lack of financial avenues, women have
leveraged social media to raise funds; in the aftermath of natural
disasters they have found unusual ways of rehabilitating locals; with a
lack of economic opportunities, women have tapped into the digital
economy; in the face of health challenges, women have adopted and
popularized alternative treatment practices; and faced with social
ostracism, women have taken their lives into their own hands and set an
example for others to follow. One of the awardees, Ms. Smita Tandi
collects money through social media and helps those who require medical
treatment, Dr. Nandita Shah founder of SHARAN has a vision of diabetes
free India, she assists in reversing diabetes by using food as medicine
and Ms. Kalyani Pramod Balakrishnan, a textile designer has helped poor
weavers by promoting traditional crafts. They show us that no challenge
is insurmountable if one has the courage to take the road less
A quality common to all the winners of the Nari Shakti Puraskar this
year has been their perseverance and will to go the extra mile.
Government and non-Governmental organizations have worked for decades to
improve the quality of life for all in their regions. People have left
the comfort of their homes and lives to lead the fight for a cause,
taking others along with them. Change often comes slowly, but these
women and institutions have demonstrated that a committed effort will
eventually lead to a positive outcome. The awardees has shown that one
can achieve anything if one has determination, Ms. Tiasa Adhya and Ms.
Bano Haralu fought to impose ban on hunting of fishing cat and migratory
Amur Falcons in their respective regions. Ms. V. Nanammal, a
nonagenarian yoga enthusiast has taught yoga to many people, now her
students are teaching yoga across the world.
The Nari Shakti Puraskar this year sets a high standard for our country.
The awardees are examples of motivation, dedication, innovation and the
belief that an effort made with the right intention can lead to an
improvement in the lives of millions. Let us inspire more people to join
the effort to make a better India.
*Author is Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI.