The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8) is, “I am the liberation of generation: recognising the rights of women.”
Across the globe, and over decades, the struggle for gender equality is being questioned, in discussion and fought for. We should mark this year as a time to celebrate women’s achievements while also raising awareness of the need to create a fairer and balanced world.
Sudarshan Suchi, Secretary-General, SOS Children’s Villages of India, a child care organisation, said, “At SOS Children’s Villages India, we honour women who raise themselves, dedicate their lives to raising abandoned children, who support their families and their communities out of economic hardship, who embody true resilience through their creativity, compassion and hard work. We are also deeply committed to empowering girls around the country, ensuring they have the opportunities, support and confidence to achieve their dreams.”
From the very inception of SOS Children’s Villages, women have been crucial in launching the organisation and turning SOS Children’s Villages from an innovative idea into a pioneering model.
“Today, women in our organisation are leaders as village directors, as SOS mothers, as national directors, and working at an international level,” emphasises Suchi. When asked about advocating gender equality, he added, “As a global social development organisation for children, we are particularly responsible to fight against all forms of gender-related discrimination so that girls and boys grow into independent adults. I concur with the common adage that: ‘you empower a woman, you empower a Nation.'”
The proud Geeta Singh, a non-biological mother at the SOS Children’s Village Khajuri Kalan in India, said, “My marriage could not survive because I could not be a mother. But here I am, who underwent special training at SOS Children’s Villages, to become a mother and lead many to success in life. Looking after my SOS children can be challenging at times, but I am trained to care for them and, their smiles make me happy.”
She added, “I joined SOS India in 2003. At first, I was frightened because I had no previous experience drawing strength from taking care of such kids. But as time passed and with support from the organisation, I gained confidence and clarity about my work. I am a mother of children who have a wide array of mental and physical difficulties. One of my daughters has visual impairment as well as speech impairment. They can’t effectively communicate her feelings, too. Notwithstanding her handicaps, she is an experienced athlete today. I’ve taught Braille to help one of my visually challenged kids interact in the best way possible.”
IL & FS Skills Development Corporation (IL & FS Skills), which boasts to be India’s largest vocational training company too has many such women empowerment stories to share.
Leezamit Lepcha was trained for Food and Beverage Steward under Seekho Aur Kamao Project and is currently working with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), Miami, Florida, USA, earning a monthly salary of $1700.
A resident of Kalimpong (East India), Lezamit Lepcha, faced a lot challenges. Born to financially weak parents, finding a sustainable livelihood for herself was paramount. It was in the year 2012 when she heard about IL & FS Skills training programmes from her friends. Wasting no time, she got herself enrolled in the hospitality segment as an F&B Service Steward under the Seekho Kamao Initiative and today she is happily working in Florida.
“The training taught me all I had needed to learn – the theoretical and practical aspects, both. The trainers especially showed incredible patience when we trying to grasp the concepts and that made all the difference. This was the time when I started believing in myself. I found lucrative employment and over the years financial independence and confidence were the two main goals I attained, of which I am proud of,” says the gritty young girl.
Now let’s talk about the famous Kathak dancer and trainer – Rani Khanam. Her ghungroos tell the story of strength, chasing a dream, against many odds. She hails from a conservative Muslim society, who challenged all the unjustified shackles to follow her dream.
Her style reflects deep comprehension of the dance tradition which has set new dimensions and source of inspirations to the younger generation, mothers and other women.
Rani said, “A woman today, especially an enterprising woman, has multiple roles to live by and carry forth. Mental stamina and physical strength are paramount to justify every role. Dancing sets one’s soul free; it could be a woman’s true mate to distress and elevate her mood. It’s all about chasing a dream and journey to empowerment.”
And, she chased her passion and continues to do so while instilling the same in her students at her dance academy- Aamad Dance Centre.