Women have always been in the forefront of any movement that has brought positive changes in the society. The list of such women is endless. Here we are covering some such women who come to mind the moment we think of those who have contributed immensely by their sheer determination and belief in their cause.

These women dared to pursue their cause and left indelible marks on the history. They belong to  diaspora that belong to different places,  share different interests, do their things differently, but they ALL have shown the grit to convert their imperishable dreams into reality.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was bestowed with many top honors all across the globe for her selfless efforts to help the ‘poorest of the poor’ including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1980. Following her death in 1997, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title of ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’.

Today, the Missionaries of Charity consists of over 4500 sisters across 133 countries. Mother Teresa may have left this world more than a decade ago but her legacy lives on, giving the light of hope to the poor and the homeless, and inspiration to many young women all around the world.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is the symbol of Burma’s struggle for freedom. Burma’s pro-democracy leader and a Nobel Peace laureate, she has spent more than 15 years under house arrest.

Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi has been India’s first and highest (woman) ranking officer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972. Her expertise includes more than 35 years of creative and reformative policing and prison management. She represented India in International forums on crime prevention, drug abuse, police and prison reforms and women’s issues.

She holds a Law, Masters, Doctorate degree. She is also a Nehru Fellow (post doctoral) — Been a National and an Asian Tennis champion.  She has addressed audiences at the American, British, European, Indian Universities, Corporate and Civil Society groups.  

She is a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (also called the Asian Nobel Prize), and several other national and international decorations.

Arundhati Roy

The Indian novelist, activist and a world citizen, Arundhati Roy is known worldwide for her contribution to many issues from environment to women’s rights to other social issues. She is renowned for her novel “The God of Small Things” which also won her the Booker Prize. “The God of Small Things” is the only novel written by her. After the success of the book people anticipated about what the author would write next, when she surprised everyone by concentrating on political issues. She started writing about the Narmada Dam project, India’s Nuclear Weapons, corrupt power company Enron’s activities in India. She has now become a figure-head of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism.

Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence. She was also awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for her collection of essays, ‘The Algebra of Infinite Justice’ in January 2006, however she declined to accept it.

JK Rowling

Back in the summer of 1990, a young woman travelling in a train from Manchester to London conceived an idea so enthralling and engrossing that even she herself did not realise her idea would one day transform her life completely and in the process give the world a ‘New Hero’.

Meet Joanne Rowling, better known as JK Rowling, creator of the legendary boy superhero, Harry Potter.

She is now one of the most influential women in her country besides being one of the richest. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and Lumos (formerly the Children’s High Level Group).


When she sings, the whole world gets ‘Frozen’. When she says ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, everyone agrees. When she dresses, she’s always in’Vogue’. When she looks at you, she looks ‘Like a virgin’. No female artist in the entire history of the music industry has sold more records than her, vouches the Guinness Book of World Records. She is the most successful solo artist in the history of the Billboard chart and plays the multiple roles of a singer, songwriter, actress, producer, director, fashion designer, author and an entrepreneur to perfection. What’s more, she has been named as one of the ’25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century’ by Time magazine for being an influential figure in contemporary music.

Ekta Kapoor

The Indian TV industry has reached new heights and has been given a new direction by the czarina of TV soaps, Ekta Kapoor. She has changed how Indian audiences viewed Indian soaps. Her serials have become an everyday dose of medicine for viewers, which if not taken will make them restless and give them sleepless nights. She has created renaissance in the Indian TV industry.

Enterpreneur Ekta Kapoor, daughter of yesteryear superstar Jeetendra, has made people fall in love with the serials and the characters. Her serials are so popular that these soaps have become an everyday affair in the lives of housewives. These women can relate to the characters and enjoy the drama that these serials are packed with.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, a student of Bangalore’s Bishop Cotton Girl’s High School (1968) wanted to join medical school but instead took up biology and completed her BSc Zoology Honors course. She later did her post-graduation in Malting and Brewing from Ballarat College, Melbourne University (1975). After being trained in Australia and working in Calcutta, she returned to Bangalore to start a biotech company when nobody was even talking about biotechnology. With grit and determination, she took her company to unparalleled heights. This is how the story of one of India’s finest entrepreneurs began.

Kalpana Chawla

As a child, most of us wondered about the mystery behind the stars that glimmered at night. Some of us thought they were our dead relatives, who were now taken away by god! But there was one girl who did not want to believe in this imaginary story. She pledged to reach the stars one day and uncover the truth behind it. This special girl was none other than Kalpana Chawala, the first Indian born female to fly into space.

Medha Patkar

The first name that comes to your mind the moment you hear about Narmada Bachao Andolan is that of Medha Patkar. Medha, the founder of the Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s movements,

Medha, born on 1 December 1954 in Bombay, came from a family of crusaders. An MA in Social Works from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patkar gave up on her PhD because she got immersed in the tribal and peasant communities in Maharashtra, MP and Gujarat eventually organising the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Medha Patkar spearheaded the Narmada Bachao Andolan to stop the dam’s construction. She was also a Commissioner to the World Commission on Dams.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan began as a fight for information about the Narmada Valley Development Projects and continued as a fight for just rehabilitation for the lakhs of people to be ousted by the Sardar Sarovar Dam and other large dams along the Narmada river. She is among India’s most dynamic activists.

Chanda Kochhar

Business Leader of the Year – The list of recipients of the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2011 is finally out. Chanda Kochhar, managing director of ICICI Bank, the country’s largest private sector lender, has been named Business Leader of the Year. It is great news as Chanda is the first woman to win this award. Her achievement in stabilising ICICI bank, which had a high proportion of non-performing assets during a period of rapid growth in the first decade of the century has been remarkable.

Margaret Thatcher

Meet Margaret Thatcher – United Kingdom’s first female Prime Minister. Call her the ‘Iron Lady’ or ‘The Baroness Thatcher’; like her ideals or resent her thinking; love her or hate her; but you simply can’t ignore her! She was instrumental in helping the world end the millennium on a note of hope and confidence by giving a revolutionary twist to the century’s last couple of decades through a series of interconnected events.

Tawakul Karman

Tawakul Karman, the 32 year old human rights activist who has been the driving force behind anti-government protests in Yemen was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize along with 2 other influential women this year. Ms. Karman seemed stunned by the award as she sat surrounded by admirers in the worn blue tent where she has lived in a sprawling protest camp for nine months. Many expected the award to go to one of the protest leaders in Egypt or Tunisia, where the revolts have succeeded in toppling authoritarian leaders. This is a welcome decision that was taken in order to draw attention to the suppression of women’s rights around the world and spur their fight for greater equality in male-dominated societies.

Irom Sharmila

She is known as the Iron Lady of Manipur. A civil rights activist, political activist, and a poet from Manipur, India. She has been on fast for more than 10 years. Her only demand to the Indian government – withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), which authorize the army to kill without being questioned.

Irom Sharmila Awarded “Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2007″ – South Korea.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments on Women’s Day Special – Contemporary Women Trailblazers

  1. Diana says:

    Nice one……….. but you forgot my name. ;)

  2. wizard says:

    It came to mind ; but waiting for some award to fall in your lap …watch this space :)

  3. Rashmi says:

    Great tribute, Wizard!…and you definitely should include Diana here!! :)

  4. wizard says:

    shhh.. Rashmi, my list is exclusive- not for public:)…you are very much in it too; along with Di :)

  5. Desmond Coutinho says:

    Last but not least Irom Sharmila Chanu. That is her sole demand. If the AF(SP)A is repealed she ends her hungerstrike but not her satyagraha. There have been more than a few judicial commissions calling for its repeal. The Jeevan Reddy 2005 Sri Moilly the Law Minister chaired one the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. And in the past two years, the Manipur Human Rights Commission, the National Human Rights Commission (India) and the UN Special Raporteur’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission all called for its repeal. But the Indian Army is opposed and proud of its independence. She has also been awarded many other prizes. Given your other highlighted interest of Love/relationships you could mention that her other request is that Manipuris not beat her fiance to death when he visits. And that the Manipur government and her supporters respect the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution especially the right to prison visits. Ah well that’s India for ya. Thanks for mentioning her. Usually she misses out on lists like this to a bollywood starlet. A sign of progress then.

Leave a Reply