Today’s Dame of the Day is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (March 23, 1953-). As a student, Mazumdar-Shaw wanted to study medicine but did not receive a scholarship and could not afford the course. Instead, her father suggested she travel to Australia and study fermentation science. When she returned to India, she tried to find a job as a brewmaster but was told it was “a man’s job.” While working in Ireland, she met up with a biochem executive looking for a person with knowledge of enzymes to run the company’s India branch. Today, her company Biocon Biochemicals not only contributes innovative advances in biotech but also provides free and low-cost medical care to rural communities across India.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Lakshmi Sahgal (October 24, 1914 – July 23, 2012). After obtaining her medical degree, Sahgal left her native India for Singapore, where she established a free clinic for migrant laborers. During her time abroad, Sahgal became involved with the India Independence League. She established a women’s regiment, marched to Burma, and was arrested by the British army. (She was released after one year.) After India’s independence in 1947, Captain Lakshmi continued to see patients at her medical practice until she was 92 years old.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Zohra Sehgal (27 April 1912 – 10 July 2014). After watching her sister’s marriage fail, Sehgal vowed to pursue a career in acting instead of getting married. She studied ballet in Europe and, during his European tour, met choreographer Uday Shankar. Upon her return to India, Shankar offered her a spot in his touring dance company. This position kickstarted her 60 year career; Sehgal went on to star in dozens of silent and speaking film roles.
We live in a data-driven society: to address a given problem, you first have to prove it exists. In the past year, organizations like Hollaback have drawn attention to street harassment through videos and social media campaigns. But statistically speaking, how prevalent is the problem? Who’s logging complaints? Sometimes, street harassment takes the form of an annoying catcall or a demand that a woman smile. But other times, it can be downright dangerous: United Nations Women estimates that, over the course of a lifetime, one in three women experience sexual assault.
Elsa D’Silva. Image courtesy of Impact Hub
Safecity founder Elsa D’Silva wants to change this statistic. In her native India, it is estimated that a rape occurs every 20 minutes. But with the guilt, fear, and shame often associated with street harassment, it is believed that many cases go unreported. D’Silva conceived of Safecity as a way for victims to anonymously report incidents and shed light on previously invisible crimes.
Image courtesy of Rising Voices
In addition to collecting reports, Safecity aggregates the data and highlight trends on a map. This visual reporting style helps women take precautions in high-harassment areas and provides evidence of the problem to lawmakers. Outside of the app, D’Silva and her team run sexual harassment awareness workshops to empower victims and shift the attitudes of men and boys. As D’Silva points out, India does not teach sex education, so Safecity also aims to change attitudes about sex, gender, and relationships.
Image courtesy of Tech in Asia
Currently, Safecity collects reports in two forms: on the web and via phone callback. However, the team is working on an app to allow more detailed documentation. Follow Safecity on social media to track their progress and learn about future initiatives.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Sunitha Krishnan (1972-). During her field work as a social worker, Krishnan developed relationships with sex workers in and around Bangalore. These relationships, along with her own history as a rape survivor, laid the groundwork for Krishnan’s career as an anti-human trafficking advocate. Krishnan co-founded Prajwala, an organization that rescues and supports sex trafficking victims and their children. She also lobbies the Indian government to shift their policies to a more victim-friendly focus. In addition to her hands-on work, Krishnan has also written 14 documentaries shedding light on AIDS, incest, and other social issues impacting the region.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Chanda Kochhar (November 17, 1961-). After graduating with degrees in Cost Accountancy and Management, Kochhar worked her way up through the ranks at India’s top banks. Today, she is the Managing Director and CEO of India’s second largest bank. Under her supervision, Kochhar’s banks won awards for quality of service. For the past several years, Kochhar has featured prominently on lists of the world’s most powerful women.
It’s a cloudy Tuesday in NYC, so to brighten the day, we turned our attention to Meera Sethi’s “Upping the Aunty” project. Typically, street style blogs cater to a young audience and highlight youthful subjects. Flip through photos from New York Fashion Week and you’ll find the representation of older fashion plates to be rather sparse.
Sushma Aunty, Toronto, Canada (Meera Sethi)
Sethi, on the other hand, recognizes that many women receive their first exposure to fashion through these older generations. The New Delhi-born, Toronto-based artist explains that in South Asian culture, children refer to friends of their mothers’ as “aunty,” a term of reverence and respect.
Maya Aunty, Toronto, Canada (Meera Sethi)
“Upping the Aunty” is a collaborative photo series dedicated to honoring these women and their important impact on the generations that look up to them. Not only do aunties serve as style icons, but they are also confidants, mentors, and friends.
Gita Aunty, Mumbai, India (Meera Sethi)
In addition to snapping photos, Sethi encourages women from all over to submit photos of their aunties and contribute to the narrative. How beautiful!
Bhoopi Aunty, Toronto, Canada (Meera Sethi)