Womanhood is surely a blessing to count and a gift to celebrate. Women have been dealing with and overcoming social issues since time immemorial. It’s these women changemakers who have given us countless inspiring stories of social change and empowerment.
In this article, we bring to you 7 inspiring stories of women changemakers who are working towards making society a better place.
Brought up in Meghalaya, Hasina Kharibh has always been passionate about serving the community and protecting human rights in general.
It was her passion that inspired her to create the Impulse NGO Network when she was in high school. Through Impulse, Hasina introduced initiatives that would fuel rural livelihoods in Meghalaya.
While working with different villages in the 90s Hasina noticed missing reports of children from various villages. After research, it was found out that these children were trapped in human trafficking in the lure of jobs in the urban areas. Through the limited contacts, she and the organization had, they were able to intervene in a number of these traffickings.
However, a major incident happened when the organization received international calls from Bangladesh. These calls were from parents who claimed that their children had been taken to Meghalaya for job purposes and had not been in contact since. After researching it was found that these children were forced into rat hole mining. From 2007 to 2009, the organization tried its level best to intervene in this trafficking but found no success. However, later the team decided to indulge the international media and it was then when their voices were heard. After this, the UN also intervened stating that the rat hole mining deploys all human rights and must be stopped. In 2014, these mines saw their closures, and a number of children were rescued. This was followed by several threats to Hasina and her team.
In the meantime, Hasina was also creating livelihood for people in these villages. She is sending their craft designs to people across the globe, asking them if they would buy these products. Hasina believes that creating employment opportunities for people in their own fields like art, craft, culture, and textile will be helpful. It can greatly reduce the risk of illegal migration and trafficking.
Hasina has received various awards and recognition for her work. She is also an Ashoka fellow (2006) and Fellow of the Aspen India Leadership Initiative (2010)
Chetna Gala Sinha
Chetna Gala Sinha, a social activist born in 1959, is the founder of the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, the first rural bank for women, by women. Sinha completed her post-graduation in commerce and economics from Mumbai University in 1982. She moved to the Satara district of Maharashtra.
It wasn’t until Kanta Bai, a street vendor came to her with a banking problem, that Sinha realized the need for setting up a bank for women like Kanta Bai. The latter told her how the banks elsewhere are not letting her open a savings account because of her low income and how she desperately needs to save up for her family. It was then when Sinha moved to the RBI with an application for setting up a rural bank for these women. However, the RBI rejected her application on the grounds of the illiteracy of the promoting members.
This irked the rural women to take up literacy classes that Sinha would conduct along with her colleague every day in different villages. Six months later, Sinha along with these ladies barged into the RBI office with another application. This time the application was accepted and the bank was set up for the rural women of India, by the women of India in 1997.
From then, till now, the bank has reached and supported half a million rural women and has also set up a business school, community radio, and their Chambers of Commerce.
Shaheen was 18 when she came back to Mumbai after living and growing up in 5 different countries of the world.
Brought up overseas in a Parsi family, Shaheen Mistri knew from an early age that she was privileged. It was her thirst for exploring India, its cities, and its slums which brought her back to it. When she came, she was overwhelmed with the number of social and environmental problems the country was dealing with. As a college student at St. Xavier’s, Mumbai, Shaheen would part-time volunteer as an educator for less privileged children in the slums of Bombay. Along with her friends, she formed Akanksha Foundation in 1989 that enrolled 15 students at that time. Today, Akanksha Foundation has helped over 4500 children across 51 centers and 16 schools.
Later in 2007, Shaheen also launched the Teach for India project, aimed at providing excellent education to underprivileged kids across the country. With Teach for India, the team has impacted the lives of over 3800 children.
Shaheen has received various awards and recognition for her work including the Ashoka fellow (2001), Global Leader for Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum(2002) and Asia Society 21 Leader(2006)
Born in a conservative family of Jodhpur in 1987, Kriti Bharti truly has an inspiring and empowering story to tell.
She was raised by her mother after her father left her while Kriti was still in her mother’s womb. Being born in a conservative family that considered a girl child as a disgrace, Kriti has faced many life-threatening instances ever since she was in her mother’s womb. A rehabilitation psychologist, Kriti has been actively working with NGOs since she was in college. Her interactions with several children made her realize the dreadful effect of child marriage on the lives of these kids.
It was then when she decided to open SAARTHI Trust, a non-profit organization, to rescue children from child marriages and make them independent through education and vocational training. Till now the organization has annulled over 41 child marriages and has stopped over 1400 from taking place.
Started as Industree Craft Pvt. limited in 1994, the company aimed at the establishment of a market for rural artisans. Later in 2000, it took the shape of Industree Foundation, in collation with the Indian government to create proper working infrastructure for rural artisans. Through the Industree Foundation, the team empowers rural artisans by helping them produce in-demand craft products and then ensuring a constant generation of these demands by linking the artisans through various groups like IKEA, Future Group, and more. The workers, mostly women, are also given soft skills training that empowers them and makes them independent. Over the years, the Foundation has reached over 30,000 women artisans in India and Africa.
Neelam has been felicitated with various awards and recognition for her work including Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year(2011) by World Economic Forum, L’Oreal Paris Femina Award 2012, and Women Change Makers Fellow(2013) by Womanity Foundation.
An Indonesian teenager, Maggha Karaneya is a true humanitarian at heart. At the naive age of 15, she came up with the idea of creating a sanctuary for abandoned babies where they will be taken care of and given proper education like other kids.
The idea struck her mind on one of her regular visits to an orphanage with her mother. She then told her mother about it and together they came up with a sanctuary called YAYASAN METTA MAMA AND MAGGHA in 2015.
MM&M has now admitted 11 babies and is looking after their medical, caregiving, and educational needs. Maggha juggles her time between homeschooling and the sanctuary looking after babies and planning out holistic activities for them. She is determined to reach as many abandoned babies as she can through her organization and provide them with equal opportunities for learning and growing.
Farha Ciciek, an Indonesian feminist and revolutionary, is leading a revolution in the country by empowering women through Islamic religious texts. Amidst the growing conservatism and fundamentalism of Islam in the country, she believes women can be empowered through religious teachings. As a key part of her strategy, Farha identifies male and female leaders in religious schools and organizations to help her gain entry into their communities. Together with these influential leaders, Farha has established an active network through her organization, the Center for Education and Information on Islam and Women’s Rights (RAHIMA) that brings people with progressive views together to strengthen the cause of equality and to improve women’s daily lives.
She believes the cause can be strengthened if combined with necessary services like midwife services in maintaining reproductive health. Thus, she has collaborated with secular citizen organizations and educational institutes to train midwife activists and help them open reproductive health centers.
Of course, her ideas are criticized by many in the country however, they do not let her lose faith in herself. Read more about Farha here.
The stories of these women changemakers are truly incredible. We hope that like us, you too must have had your dose of inspiration after reading these stories. However, the list is rather endless and it must go on. Tell us about more inspiring stories of women changemakers around the world who are bringing out a positive change in society.