Women have always played an important role in India, be it our goddesses, our warrior queens, our uneducated yet highly talented women folk in villages and our urban educated women working in almost every sphere of life. And not to forget our humble yet very strong women who are taking charge of their house and family while husbands are away earning the bread. The recent SC ruling makes it crystal clear, isn’t it.
As women’s Day is around the corner, Conscious Carma brings to you some of the most impressive women in India who have shown strength in adversities and have dedicated their efforts to bring smiles to thousands.
The Chairperson of Infosys Foundation believes that philanthropy is not mere financing, it needs a compassionate heart. In her own words, “Philanthropy has nothing to do with money. It’s a warm hug, a kind word . . . that can change lives. It’s about helping fellow human beings.” True to her belief, Murthy has been one of the most generous hearts in Indian philanthropy. She has devoted herself to education, poverty alleviation, healthcare, sanitation and public hygiene, arts and culture, and more.
To combat the Coronavirus pandemic, the Infosys Foundation has built hospitals, supplied PPE kits, and mobilized around 150 crores. And offered Rs 10 crore from their personal funds toward Akshaya Patra Foundation for serving food and distributing essential groceries to the migrant labourers and daily wage earners.
A recipient of many awards for her charitable activities and writing, the highest honour she has received is the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award.
“Serving people has bought me a tremendous amount of calmness. Nothing else matters to me now,”she says, defining the makings of a true philanthropist.
Executive Chairperson, Biocon – India’s richest self-made woman, has been named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 for her contribution in improving universal access to affordable life-saving medicine and transforming the world. She was selected among 46 entrepreneurs from 41 countries and territories. She became the third Indian to win the Award after Uday Kotak of Kotak Mahindra Bank in 2014 and Narayana Murthy of Infosys in 2005. She also becomes the second woman to hold the title, following Olivia Lum of Singapore’s Hyflux Limited in 2011.
Millions of people living with diabetes now have access to affordable insulin, while millions more who are battling cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other debilitating diseases now have access to affordable biosimilars, thanks to Biocon, making a lasting impact on global health care.
“My business focus is global health care and the provision of universal access to life-saving medicine; however, my responsibility as an entrepreneur is greater than simply delivering value to shareholders. Wealth creation can be a catalyst for change, and all entrepreneurs have a responsibility to the world around them and the communities in which they operate. Women also play a hugely important role in economic development, and for too long their contribution has been ignored,”says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.
The former Chairperson of Thermax is on a mission to provide education to underprivileged children in India. Two words that define this charismatic woman are – Courageous and Ethical. A trained social worker, Anu was heading HR at Thermax when her husband, CEO of Thermax, had a fatal heart attack and lost his life in the year 1996. Anu took reins of the company at a time when its share price plunged from Rs.400 to Rs.36 due to the downturn in the Indian economy. With sheer courage and determination, and never compromising on the ethics, Anu orchestrated one of the greatest revival stories corporate India had witnessed. In 2007 she was part of 40 Richest Indians by net worth according to Forbes magazine.
After stepping down as Chairperson in 2004, Anu is devoted to her true calling, helping and educating the underprivileged, through Akanksha Foundation and Teach For India. Under her wings, four students were selected for full scholarships at world colleges, and five got selected to the Azim Premji University. In 2010 she was awarded the Padma Shri for Social Work by the Government of India. She was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Indian Parliament in 2012, by the President of India.
“Don’t make me larger than life. I was and am, very ordinary,”says the humble Anu Aga.
An Indian writer, author and a stay-at-home mother raising her two children, took to philanthropy two decades ago. At present, she is the founder-chairperson of Arghyam Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on water and sanitation issues, also the Founder-Chairperson of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher. She also chaired the Akshara Foundation, which focuses on elementary education, and serves as the co-founder and director of the non-profit education platform, EkStep.
Rohini Nilekani calls herself an “accidental philanthropist” because of her accidental wealth. In 1981, when just 20 years old, Nilekani invested Rs.10,000, all the money she had – into a company co-founded by her husband, Nandan Nilekani, along with six close friends. That company grew into Infosys Ltd., India’s second-largest technology company, and this rich noblewoman got into philanthropy full time.
A committed philanthropist, Rohini together with her husband Nandan Nilekani (Co-founder Infosys), signed the GIVING PLEDGE in 2017, which commits half their wealth to philanthropic causes. She is seeking to address the extreme inequality between the ‘have-everythings’ and the ‘have nothings’ through her philanthropies.
She is on the Board of Trustees of ATREE, an environmental think tank, and serves on the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India.
“I believe that wealth comes with huge responsibility and is best deployed in the larger public interest”Rohini Nilekani
The Millennials inspired by their seniors
After finishing her business studies in Australia, Swati was all determined to join her family business in Kolkata. However, she took to art and social service as she found her true calling in spreading happiness and positivity.
She began her journey as the youngest trustee at a hospital in Varanasi quite early in her life. . During one of her visit to Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi along with her grandfather, she was introduced to this side of the world. It was the suffering that she saw around in the hospital that encouraged her to continue her philanthropic work. Since then Swati has taken upon her shoulders the responsibility of running it and most part of her earnings from Art is being diverted there. Even when she is not in Varanasi, she actively participates in Charitable Art Exhibitions and fundraisers, to ensure happiness and positivity around her. Also, being a highly spiritual person, Swati is practising Pranic Healing to relieve others of pain.
“As a spiritual person, I believe in giving back to society as a token of thankfulness to the almighty, for everything I have been blessed with in my life”Swati Pasari
Meghna Anita, a student of bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis also works part-time as a COVID case manager for the Department of Health, Government of Minnesota. She has been interested in politics and social justice from a young age. As a debater in high school, she learned about and debated the nuances of US laws and which spurred her interest in activism. She has attended numerous protests including the Women’s March and has spent the last four years of her college career working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Inspired by women like Sudha Murthy in India, she has been wanting to take part in initiatives that actually empower women to be self-sufficient rather than receiving handouts. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Meghna chose to contribute seed money of about INR 75000 to a women’s micro-enterprise that would focus on creating face masks in Kochi, Kerala. The approach taken was a build, operate, transfer model, where the micro-enterprise was built and put into operation and then left to the tailors and local management to run the business and take decisions on their own.
Meghna wants to continue to help women by starting future cooperatives/micro-enterprises within the US and India. She has continued to work with victims of sexual violence and hopes to continue this work in some capacity during her professional career.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” by Amelia Earhartis a quote she swears by