Remarkable feats can be achieved by any individual, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. All that is required is a strong will and wholehearted dedication to attain your goals. Moreover, age is never a barrier here. In the process, you may even help and inspire numerous fellow citizens.
The awe-inspiring stories of these three women are testament to these facts:
Arjuna Award winner, Deepa Malik is paralysed below the chest and has been undergoing treatment for a spinal tumour for the past 17 years.
But in her avatar as an international sportsperson, she leaves many able-bodied people behind. She has 57 national and international medals and has represented India at the Rio Paralympics 2016 under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). She is India’s first paraplegic woman swimmer, biker and rally-car driver and holds four Limca World Records for adventure sports.
Based on her inputs, India’s sports policy now includes the provision of equitable sports facilities and rewards for para- sportspersons. Deepa personally assists people with disabilities to take up sports, including rally-car driving.
A vocal advocate of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, she promotes gender equality on national media, while also motivating women to overcome the ‘double stigma’ of gender and disability.
Deepa also helps men and women with disabilities secure jobs and earn their own livelihoods. Several corporate organizations rely on her expertise to make their businesses more inclusive for staff and clients. To encourage the younger generation, she conducts workshops for inclusive education, disability- sensitization and para-sports awareness in schools and colleges across India.
Deepa is a torch-bearer for the Accessible India Campaign. Her efforts resonate with the inclusion of disability enshrined in the mandates of sustainable development goals 8, 10 and 11. She is therefore, helping to transform India into a more inclusive society, both in terms of mindset and accessibility.
Her significant contributions made her a deserving recipient of the ‘Women Transforming India’ award in 2016.
Muskan Ahirwar is a sprightly nine year-old girl from Durga Nagar Village near Bhopal. She is a living example of what young India aims at and can do when they put their mind to it.
She is the youngest girl to run a library of her own in the slum area behind Rajya Siksha Kendra, in Arera Hills. She calls it Bal Pustakalaya (library for children). This is her effort to empower the slum children by educating them. She also holds open-discussions with other students, and reads aloud various modules from educational books.
In 2016, her library received 120 books from the Rajya Siksha Kendra. This has led to an increase in her library’s popularity in the area.
Muskan’s efforts have been recognised, and she was awarded the ‘Women Transforming India’ award in 2016.
To capture all that Mariazeena does in a short brief is to do her a disservice. Briefly speaking, she’s been a revolutionary educationist, social reformer and humanitarian.
As the director of Sathyabama University, a leading Science and Technology university in south India, she has made higher education free and accessible for the disadvantaged and differently-abled, including acid attack victims and under-privileged students who excel in sports.
Through her Anbu Foundation, she has ‘adopted’ seven panchayat schools, two villages and provides lifetime support to 40 NGOs. Mariazeena also conducts free coaching classes for civil service aspirants and runs skill-development courses for school dropouts and government school students, for the benefit of 50 government schools.
As a social reformer, she has also initiated several programmes for the empowerment and upliftment of under- privileged women in 45 villages. Her philanthropy extends to needy children, destitute women as well as providing free education to the children of war widows.
Mariazeena has also introduced satellite-based e-learning vocational courses for rural youths through village resource centres that connect 300 villages across India. Each year, thousands of youths are trained to become plumbers, medical lab technicians, nursing assistants and electricians through these courses.
Mariazeena supports several foundations and trusts, sponsors monthly medical expenses for children affected by cancer and expresses her environmental concerns through her advocacy for a Green India. She has undertaken tree planting initiatives with great zeal and initiated a beach cleaning drive under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. She organizes free health camps and several rallies and awareness programmes for various social causes.
Although her work is primarily in the field of education, Mariazeena is also an active and committed contributor to the economic and social development of India through initiatives that provide employment and empowerment to the disadvantaged.
In 2016, Dr Mariazeena Johnson received the ‘Women Transforming India’ award.
Women Transforming India is an online contest seeking stories of women making a difference. In its second edition, Women Transform invites you to share stories about women change-makers by submitting a video, a photo, or an article of a woman breaking stereotypes. This could be your story or that of a woman you know.
1. Short video or photo: This can be a homemade video, shot on the mobile phone, accompanied by a short caption (upto 50 words).
2. Written profile: Upto 500 words.