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5 Indian Women Who Became Role Models Of Empowerment

Today’s young women are caught between generations, forced to choose from women who were housewives and those who had a full-time career. What they lack are role models of women who embody the principles of empowerment.

Here are 5 women of Indian origin, who became role models of empowerment when they decided to carve a niche for themselves in a man’s world.

  • Mother Teresa

    Mother Teresa

There is perhaps no more amazing Indian woman than Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Calcutta). Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she is recognized as one the most selfless human beings in the world. In her honor many charities have been started in her name in over 123 different countries.

These charities work as hospices, homes for the dying, homes for those with HIV/AID and many other difficult diseases. Mother Teresa herself worked, walked, held and cried over the people that no one else would touch themselves.

She brought into light the suffering of many and challenged countless thousands to answer the call to defend the helpless in society. Mother Teresa was known for saying that the hunger for someone to love them is more difficult to overcome than the need for bread to feed their body.

  • Aishwarya RaiAishwarya Rai

Ms. Rai won the Miss World crown in 1994 and has been on the rise ever since. Aishwara certainly is glamorous and possibly one of the most beautiful working mothers today.

Madame Tussaud has fashioned a wax statue of her which is showcased in London. Even the Netherlands love her, where she has her very own tulip bearing her name.

Rai is the ambassador for the Eye bank association in India’s nationwide promotional campaign. This campaign is to raise awareness for eye donations in Indiana. She has been greatly involved in campaigns to help eradicate polio in India.

In other news Rai has gotten involved with the International Year of Microcredit, in an effort to raise awareness of the UN’s poverty alleviation efforts.

  • Kalpana ChawlaKalpana Chawla

She will always be remembered as the first Indian-origin woman to become an American astronaut. She was onboard the tragic flight of Columbia that ended in an inflight explosion February 2003.

For her service to the United States she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Chawla served on one other previous space flight also in the Columbia space vessel.

Many of the projects that Chawla worked and participated in can be found in various technical papers and journals.

  • Indra NooyiIndra Nooyi

India-born she attended IIM Calcutta and the Yale SO Management. Nooyi rightfully claimed the world’s attention when she became CEO of the world’s second largest corporation, PepsiCo.

Forbes has named her 4th on the 2008 and 2009 most powerful women in business. She has been named one of America’s Best Leaders.

Nooyi has 2 daughters and has been ranked and the 3rd most powerful Mom in the world.

  • indira gandhiIndira Gandhi

She served as the third prime Minister of India. She gained notoriety as she continued to serve for 3 consecutive terms, and then went on to serve an unprecedented fourth term. She was the only Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency to “rule by decree”.

To the end she was has also been the only prime minister to have been placed in prison for her decisions. Her arrest gained her great sympathy and popularity of many people.

Her life was cut short by her very own bodyguards in retaliation for ordering the army to enter the most famous Golden Temple to remove insurgents inside the temple.



Women Of Empowerment: 5 Inspiring Women Leaders In India

Women in India have proved beyond their capability and mettle beyond any doubt. Indian women have produced leaders who exude confidence and dignity. Here are some who have empowered other Indian women to be their best and made us proud.

  • Kiran Bedi

A symbol of courage and an excellent leader, Kiran Bedi has been a perfect example of the fearless Indian woman. Having been a lecturer of Political Science for 2 years at Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar, she joined the Indian Police Service in 1972.

She has braved some extremely difficult postings since, including Deputy Inspector General of Police in the insurgency prone region of Mizoram. During her term in the IPS, she has brought about several reforms in the areas of narcotics control and traffic management.

She has won many prestigious awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1994), and the United Nations Medal.

  • Meira KumarMeira Kumar

Polite and charming, yet extremely reserved, the First Woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, is a disciplinarian to the core. Kumar was a lawyer and a diplomat before being elected to the Lok Sabha first to the 8th Lok Sabha.

She was a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment between 2004 and 2009. She is a strong proponent of women’s empowerment in India, having strongly opposed the dilution of the Anti-dowry law.

“Safety, dignity and equality of women are very important,” Kumar said while interacting with women journalists here. Questioned on her views on the dilution of 498(A), the anti-dowry law, which some sections of civil society argue is too harsh, she said, “I am not in favour of dilution of any law which is for the safety of women.” (Source: Deccan Herald)

  • Mother Teresa

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the Late Mother Teresa was a beacon of light for empowerment and care for the poor. Her contribution to our country’s development has been indescribably immense.

She founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta , and for 45 years she tended to the poor, the sick, and orphans. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna in 1980.

The Missionaries of Charity have homes and hospices for lepers, patients with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and also counseling centers in 123 countries around the world. After her death in 1997, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II and she came to be known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

  • Bachendri PalBachendri Pal

The first Indian woman to scale the Mount Everest in 1984, Bachendri Pal is a picture of grit, determination and one who dares to dream.

She was born in a family of small means, and went on to first become an instructor of mountaineering and then to scale the Everest itself.

She continues to be active even today, and she is involved with the TATA Group, as the chief of the TATA Steel Adventure Foundation (TASF). She heads expeditions in the Himalayas organized by TASF for women.

  • P.T. Usha

The Queen of the Indian Track and Field, the “Payyoli Express” as she was nicknamed, is the trailblazer for women athletes in India. Her medal record in the Asian Games, and several other national and international events is proof of her fantastic career.

She was the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event by winning the semi-finals of the 400 m hurdles in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

At this event, she missed the bronze by 1/100th of a second. She was conferred the Arjuna Award in 1984, and the civil honour Padma Shree in the same year.


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Women in Leadership Forum India 2011: Day Two – Empowering Women

Shilpa Sachdev reports for on Day 2 of naseba’s Women in Leadership Forum India 2011, where most of the discussions centered around women’s empowerment in India and raising awareness of women’s legal rights in India.

Day 2 began with a powerful session on ‘Social Entrepreneurship‘ by Dr Sunitha Krishnan, Chief Functionary and Co-founder of Prajwala, who stated that it is a responsibility of all the empowered women to do their bit in enhancing the marginally weaker women subordinates in the society.

Dr Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala

Here was a woman who spoke from her own dreadful experience of societal isolation. “I was gang raped by eight men, 24 years back. It was not the rape but the selective discrimination from the society that I suffered the most.”

Since then Sunitha has been working single-mindedly to rescue young girls and women caught in ‘sex trafficking’ and rehabilitating them to lead a normal life. She says that hardly 7% of victims get rescued.

In a shocking revelation, she stated that the women at Kamathipura have to sleep with average 35 men a day. If the victims resist, they suffer multiple exploitation, especially with them being in a totally ‘non-accountable’ relationship with their clients who satiate their angst by inflicting horrors on these marginalised women.

9 to 14 year olds form the bulk of traffic victims. The question Sunitha posed was how open are we to have these women as a part of the society? “Just because we as a society have failed to rescue a victim in time, she becomes the perpetrator of the crime. It is our duty to bring back dignity to these women and help change the perception towards them in the society.”

Sunitha observed that, apart from Andhra Pradesh, no other state in the country had a formal anti-trafficking policy. She also shared how we can take a leaf out of the model followed by countries like Sweden where they arrest the men and not the girl and put it on national news.

However, this does not address the attitude of the person. Another example she gave was of a small town in the USA where the client is told to pay a fine and attend a training program or put behind bars. The message that Sunitha hopes to get across is that silence kills.

“No government is willing to take this hands-on. We need to build community pressure. We can make a difference only in a limited way. It starts with responsible parenting. We must talk about such issues with our family. Suppression is the foremost cause of concern. Women in the corporate world could also lend their mentorship skills or other organisational skills to raise the awareness and make the fight stronger,” she states.

It was heartening to see how a few women delegates from the crowd immediately approached Sunita after her presentation, offering her help in any way possible, to make the movement stronger.

The panel discussion that followed was themed on achieving the balance between career and work. The session raised issues like gender bias at work and the discrimination against women at the corporate level.

“Policies are the basic hygiene but just because a woman will get pregnant doesn’t mean she should not be hired. Fairness is very essential,” said one of the panelists. Sharmila Banerjee, MD and Chief Mentor, Fuzion Inc Pvt, shared an episode from her earlier days when she was a journalist and her husband was forced to transfer to a Naxalite area because she did not give in to bureaucratic demands.

“That was a transitory point and I had to make a tough choice, which I did. But my husband was very supportive and that gave a lot of strength.” Uma Nambiar who was the moderator spoke about how women are breaking stereotypes and assuming key roles.

“Earlier a nurse meant a woman. I myself took a decision to become a surgeon and not a gynaecologist.” In an urban context, we look at things differently. As Sharmila rightly said, women are very repressed in the rural areas and here is where we need to perpetuate the change.

Nandini VaidyanathanHowever, in the next session, Nandini Vaidyanathan, Founder and Mentor, CARMa Venture Services, stressed that work and life are seamless and cannot really be compartmentalised.

“Work and life constitute living and hence are seamless. Over time we have lost the seamlessness because we are looking for control outside. We need to step aside of this monkey business,” she advised.

Nandini teaches Entrepreneurship and is the author of the book Entrepedia. She has mentored more than 500 people on becoming successful entrepreneurs. To cite an example, she mentored illiterate women in Afghanistan transforming them into leading exporters of ‘hijaab’.

“Women need to re-invent themselves,” she states. “They imprison themselves behind imagined walls. Woman is the least on her priority. Work life balance is inside of us. It is an attribute we need to cultivate. Reprieve comes when there is meaning in life and meaning is within you. It is time we got a mental makeover and became the master of our destiny.”

Stress management and career management were the topics discussed in the next panel round moderated by Kanika Dewan. Work-life pressures often end up leading to the danger word called ‘stress’.

Abha Banerjee noted that one must learn to break away from stress and create focus in life. “The body is the first indication that will tell you it is time to slow down. You should learn to down the people who down you. Take time out to thank yourself and most importantly, learn to say No. There are no rules to life; everything is right in a context. Use stress to grow in life.”

Filmmaker, Gitanjali Rao, took a conscious decision to work as an individual animation filmmaker. Her film was screened at the Cannes film festival. “I chose animation to get the message across with more impact. Animation is like poetry or painting and not really a war with male counterparts. In fact, this field has a lot of women directors. When you are an artist, gender bias disappears a little. In France, men and women get paid differently to do the same work; at least in India it is better that way.”

In summation, Kanika spoke about how she has suffered two slipped discs because she did not slow down when her body asked her to. “I took to yoga and meditation that helped greatly. Silence is louder than the loudest noise.”

The last session of the day was a legal session conducted by Amee Yajnik, a senior advocate with Gujarat High Court. Amee, who works pro-bono for women, gave a run down on important laws related to women.

She said that although there is reach and access, it requires serious capability to let the law help you. The judgements you see on television are just the tip of the iceberg. In the age where we are talking about women empowerment, there are still cases of dowry deaths in the country. Middle class people don’t want to approach the police.

She elaborated on some important directives by the Supreme Court for women stating that no policemen can approach a woman between 6 pm to 6 am. If he must come, he has to get a mahila (woman) police officer along.

“The laws mandated by the Constitution ensure that women will be treated equally before the law. I am all for reservation because nobody is going to come and give it to you and right now women don’t have the capability so let the law put you there.”

“In an amendment by Rajiv Gandhi, a woman sarpanch was made compulsory so there was no option, which is good in a way. A daughter can claim money from the property of the father but daughters rarely challenge the court.”

“In the 60s we got the Dowry Act that ensures that people who demand dowry be put behind the bars. In another amendment, if a woman is thrown out of the house, she can immediately claim maintenance. However, women don’t know that they are entitled to maintenance.”

“Under section 498A, if a woman is being tortured at home and if she complains, the police can arrest the family. Another law states that if the woman dies an unnatural death within seven years of marriage, you can book the family.”

The Vishakha guidelines were brought out to provide a safe environment to women at work and protect them from sexual harassment. Every corporate has to have a complaint committee and, if not, one can file a complaint.

“We have the Domestic Violence Act also, but women don’t know the laws and that is the sad part. Some who do know the laws end up misusing them, and that is the danger of having laws. The court asks to not take arrests immediately and follow complete procedures so that the law is not misused. On my part, I have tried to create an access system and a web to help women seeking justice.”

The power of information and education cannot be ignored. The day came to a close with a fun-filled session for the delegates allowing them a moment of dance and song.

The forum not only bridged the gap but also attempted to bring to light various women-related issues at a common platform for the participants to learn and imbibe. A concerted effort is just the beginning of the long journey of empowering Indian women.

© is a media partner for the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India

Women in Leadership (WIL) Series Topics:

The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India is a cutting-edge platform for businesswomen from all backgrounds, industry sectors and countries around the world. Amongst the delegates in attendance will be top Indian and global businesswomen, industry visionaries, leading politicians, knowledge thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

Photo source Wikipedia

Leading Indian Business Women Confirm Participation At The Women In Leadership Forum In Mumbai This October 2011

Mumbai, July 25th 2011 – Leading business information group, naseba, has announced dates for the Indian edition of their global Women in Leadership (WIL) Series. It is returning to the country’s financial capital on October 13th – 14th 2011, and is being held at the JW Marriott in Mumbai.

WIL is a cutting-edge platform for businesswomen from all backgrounds, industry sectors and countries around the world. Amongst the delegates in attendance will be top Indian and global businesswomen, industry visionaries, leading politicians, knowledge thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

Women's conference

According to US corporate law firm Dickstein Shapiro: “Companies that increase the number of women in leadership roles have a competitive advantage. Compared with the median companies in their industries, organisations with a higher number of women executives performed better with respect to profits as a percentage of revenue, by a range of 18 to 69 percent.”

In line with the theme for this year’s conference: “My career – a cornerstone of my identity” – renowned personalities have been confirmed as speakers for the two days. These include: Naina Lal Kidwai, Group General Manager and Country Head, HSBC India; Sangita Singh, Senior Vice President, Wipro Technologies; Vibha Pinglé, President and Founder, Ubuntu at Work; Shahnaz Husain, Chairperson, Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies, and Marsha Gabriel, CSI Advisor and CEO, The Helping Hand Network /CSI Congress, South Africa.

Over the past few decades, women’s roles and their development in India have experienced tremendous change. They are venturing way beyond the traditional responsibilities of wife and mother, as a career is now an integral part of a woman’s identity.

The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Forum India provides a suitable networking platform for businesswomen from across India and abroad, where they can discuss and celebrate their important role in today’s competitive society,” said Sophie Le Ray, CEO of naseba.

Official partners confirming their participation so far are Monster India, Radio City, Femina, and Business Wire India.

“We are very excited about this partnership,” enthused Priya Florence Shah, Editor of and a successful internet publisher. “I completely support this event and believe it is high time India’s women achievers had a platform of their own. We enthusiastically invite all businesswomen in India to be part of this.”

The forum culminates with the prestigious WIL Achievement Awards in partnership with Monster India. The ceremony recognises the achievements of prominent businesswomen and gender diverse organisations.

Media Contacts:

Mitha Ittycheriah, Marketing Manager

Email:; Tel: 080 3022 2017

Event Details:

Venue: JW Marriott, Mumbai, India

Date: October 13th – 14th

Log on to to register


naseba produces, promotes and hosts business summits, professional training courses and business exhibitions targeting executive level attendees across multiple industries. Each event is focused on re-education, networking and creating a deal-flow platform for all participating organisations. Whether it is raising capital, expanding to a new market, vendor sales contracts or sourcing a strategic partner, naseba facilitates and supports clients’ business development.

Our team of experts conducts extensive research in conjunction with recognised thought leaders to ensure that all events are relevant, timely and at the forefront of market and industry trends.

naseba collaborates with leading media, industry and local authorities, such as International Data Corporation (IDC), International Business Consultancy Group (IBCG), Saudi Trading and Resources Co. Ltd. (STAR Group Holdings), HIL International Lawyers & Advisers (HIL), International Herald Tribune, CNBC Arabia, Zawya, Council of Saudi Chambers, Asharqia Chamber, Abu Dhabi Health Authority, Ministry of Health – UAE, Ministry of Economy – UAE, Ministry of Environment and Water – UAE, Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation, Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning – Qatar, Privatization and Investment Board (PIB) – Libya, Principality of Monaco, Singapore Tourism Board, Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad, Department of Civil Aviation – Malaysia and many others.

Since its inception in France in 2002, naseba has organised over 400 events and played host to 58,000 executive delegates globally. Operating from four strategically located offices, naseba has on-the-ground presence in Monaco, Cairo, Riyadh, Dubai, Bangalore and Kuala Lumpur.

For more information on naseba, please visit Chosen As Official Media Partner For The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Forum India 2011

PUNE, July 18, 2011:, the top online magazine for women in India with a focus on career and business issues, has been chosen as an official media partner for the 2nd Annual Women In Leadership Forum to be held in Mumbai from October 13-14, 2011.

The Women In Leadership event is the brainchild of NASEBA, which produces, promotes and hosts business summits, professional training courses and business exhibitions the world over. WIL has been successfully groomed into a cutting-edge platform for businesswomen from all backgrounds, industry sectors and locations around the world.

Naaree logo“The purpose of this event is to provide a suitable meeting-ground and networking platform for businesswomen from across India and abroad to discuss and celebrate their important role in today’s competitive society,” says Mitha Ittycheriah, Marketing Manager at NASEBA.

The 2nd Annual Women In Leadership Forum will provide yet another opportunity for the stalwarts and rising stars of India’s businesswomen cadre to exchange information, create new business connections and make the most of the vast field of opportunity before them today.

The event will culminate with the prestigious Women in Leadership Achievement Awards, which recognise the achievements of prominent businesswomen and gender diverse organizations.

Among the confirmed speakers for the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Forum India 2011 are:

• Naina Lal Kidwai, Group General Manager & Country Head – HSBC India
• Sangita Singh, Senior Vice President – Wipro Technologies, Healthcare, Life sciences and Services
• Marsha Gabriel, CSI Advisor and CEO – The Helping Hand Network /CSI Congress – South Africa
• Vibha Pinglé, President and Founder – Ubuntu at Work (Worldwide)
• Shahnaz Husain, Chairperson, Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies

“We are very excited about this partnership,” states Priya Florence Shah, editor of and a successful Internet publisher since 2001. “I completely support this event and believe it is high time India’s women achievers have a platform of their own. We enthusiastically invite all businesswomen in India to be part of this event.”

Venue: JW Marriott, Mumbai, India
Date: October 13th – 14th
Log on to to register

NASEBA produces, promotes and hosts business summits, professional training courses and business exhibitions targeting executive level attendees across multiple vertical industries. Each event is focused on re-education, networking and creating a ‘deal-flow’ platform for all participating organisations. NASEBA works in partnership with leading media, industry and local authorities such as Since its inception in France in 2002, naseba has organised over 350 events and played host to 52,000 executive delegates globally.

NAAREE.COM is an online magazine for career and business women in India. It aims to help the new Indian woman get in touch with her own needs, and achieve balance and harmony in all areas of her life. NAAREE.COM offers resources and information for Indian women to empower themselves, connect with other women, experience their feminine power and nurture themselves, in body, mind and spirit. It empowers the Indian woman to be proud of who she is and become a force for change in the world.