International Women's Day: 5 women achievers on what the day means to them

Updated: 08 March, 2018 17:27 IST | Soumil Kamat | Mumbai

On the occasion of International Women's Day, we asked five women achievers on what the day means to them and how they plan to celebrate it

International Women's Day is an annual event held on March 8 to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women worldwide. The day is celebrated with art performances, speeches, networking events, conferences and marches. Women's Day also marks a call to action to end gender inequality at work.

The theme for this year's International Women’s Day, 8 March, is 'Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives'. According to United Nations women organisation, this year, International Women's Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. 

On the occasion of International Women's Day, we asked few women achievers on what the day means to them and how they plan to celebrate it.

Rakhee Vaswani

Rakhee Vaswani
Touted to be the 'Desi Nigella', Rakhee Vaswani is a natural with flavours and textures, her biggest asset being her strong palate and a deep-rooted passion for the culinary arts and food the industry. Over two decades of experience in the culinary business and her natural gift for teaching, have catapulted Palate Culinary Studio from a small mom-and-pop shop to a state of the art international cooking school where she trains budding chefs, amateurs, professionals and food enthusiasts alike, all within 4 years’ time! The Confederation of Tourism & Hospitality has proudly made Palate Culinary Studio the first centre to provide a UK-Certified Culinary Diploma Course in India.

What does Women's Day mean to you?
I think it should be a daily phenomenon over a one day thing. It started off with granting women with rights as basic as voting and today, it's a day when we celebrate womanhood while reinstating the kind of equality that we deserve.

How do you plan to celebrate Women's Day?
It's important to recognise and acknowledge people who inspire you, women who break through barriers and stereotypes and reach sky high while we personally attempt to do the same. I think each and every day is a day of celebrating womanhood and manhood all alike.

Who is your role model? Which women do you look up to and why?
Professionally, Nigella Lawson is one person I really look up to considering how talented and graceful she is. Her recipes are easily replicable and very indulgent.

Any inspirational story you have come across?
I think day to day stories of women who are taking one small step at a time to break stereotypes are extremely inspiring and empowering. Mom-preneurs are extremely inspirational as well, because not only do they ace at playing the role of a good mother but they also look one step above traditional roles set by the society and follow their passion.

What according to you is the essence of being a woman?
The essence of being a woman is to be an all-rounder. We can achieve all we want and honestly, sky is the limit.

Sucheta Pal

Sucheta Pal, Zumba trainer
Growing up in Ranchi, Sucheta was aware of how the social status of her parents was defined by the education of their children. At the age of 25, she quit her cushy IT job, rolled up her sleeves, and set to work. She enrolled herself in a professional dance school in Mumbai and lived on vada pavs that she earned from three odd jobs she did to survive in India’s city of dreams. Things went sideways for her in 2007 when she was diagnosed with IBS and social anxiety disorder. With her sheer determination, she overcame everything and was given the role of a Zumba Education Specialist, tasked with the relaunch of the largest branded workout Zumba in India in 2012.

What does Women's Day mean to you?
Day? Well, I celebrate every fleeting moment of womanhood! But to answer your question; the way we think of ourselves has everything to do with how the world sees us and how we see ourselves; successfully acknowledged by the world. It is a glorious occasion to look back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, looking ahead at the untapped potential and opportunities that await our future. It's also like a toast raised for each and every woman out there who loves her identity, is ready to create a difference or is mustering that courage against all odds. My only urge is: Even after glorification on women’s day, when we are brought back to mother earth – We should know our true worth! And men continue your consistent support, however small, for however trivial situations in life, to all women in your lives, and it will truly make a big impact on women's empowerment.

How do you plan to celebrate women's day?
I feel a single day is not enough to bolster the status of women and exult our achievements, but I am glad we have an opportunity, globally, to create more awareness about women’s issues and provide platforms for discussions and debate. To commemorate the Suffrage centenary and coalescing IWD theme for 2018 #pressforprogress - I'm delivering a motivational speech in Bangalore.

Who is your role model? Which women do you look up to and why?
My mother-in-law Reshma Abhichandani. At 65 she enjoys life to the fullest, is regular at Zumba class inspite of arthritis and I feel she is the most successful woman as she has educated her sons to be feminists. Besides her, all the women who have found the insurmountable courage to find their voice.

Any inspirational story you have come across?
Like I said there are many women like my mother-in-law who have rolled with the punches and have always risen up to fight another day. These are the stories that I see or hear about each day. The only answer I have to all women who seek inspiration is this - Look into the mirror and you’ll see the marvellous creation that you are! You don’t need an external stimuli as you are all that embodies the word 'Miracle'!

What according to you is the essence of being a woman?
To me, the essence of being a woman, in the first place is being a human and recognising the complexity that comes with all of that. A woman’s essence can be seen by more than just the eye. Each woman is intricately wrapped by layers and layers of qualities which make up her very fundamental nature and her. Being a woman means being strong, because you’ll find that your womanhood will need that strength, and when you let it, sometimes that strength will even find you. We don't need biceps (some of us do have them too!) to prove that we can take anybody down if we are rubbed the wrong way. Ladies, remember you are always more than enough. The Universe created a perfect you with all your gifts and imperfections. In your core essence, you have a knowing that connects you to your true self.

Aahana Kumra

Aahana Kumra, actress and model
Aahana Kumra is an Indian theatre, Bollywood and television actress. Kumra who stunned the masses with her role in Lipstick under my Burkha has taken the world by storm with a smashing video for United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

What does Women's Day mean to you?
Women's Day is a celebration of womnahood where for so long women have not been able to celebrate themselves and I think this is an opportunity where all women come together and there is a panel of discussions where things that happen across  the globe where women stand united for themselves, their identity and that's what women's day is all about.

How do you plan to celebrate women's Day?
Well, women's day also happens to be my mother's birthday so I am going to take my mother and my sister out for dinner

Who is your role model? Which women do you look up to and why?
My role model is my mother. She is the deputy superitendent of police. She has served in the police for 40 years and nowshe is studying law after retirement and also my sister who has just delivered a baby and has worked hard to get back her pre-baby physique. She has lost about 15-16 kilos in two months. These two women are very strong headed and they achieve what they set out for themselves. So, they are my biggest and closest inspiration in life

What according to you is the essence of being a woman?
Women must be soft from inside but tough from outside. I always maintain that women are superwomen because they facilitate for their husbands to go to work. They facilitate for their kids to be able to study, get good education and shape their career the way they want. A house runs very efficiently because of a woman and without the contribution of the women in the house, I don't think families would be running smoothly as they are doing all across the globe.

Anupriya Goenka

Anupriya Goenka, actress and model
Anupriya Goenka is an actress and model. She first shot to fame in 2013 as the face of UPA government's Bharat Nirman ad
campaign and for playing a lesbian in India's first ever lesbian ad for the brand Myntra.

What does Women's Day mean to you?
I believe everyday is women’s day, there can never be one day for celebrating women and their sprit.

How do you plan to celebrate women's Day?
I am going to pamper myself and all the women in my family with a small get together dinner. I plan to go on a dinner
date with my mother.

Any inspirational story you have come across?
Recently the story of Muniba Mazari inspired me. She is a Pakistani artist, model, activist, singer and television host. She uses a wheel chair due to injuries sustained in an accident at the age of 21. She is also the national ambassador of UN Women Pakistan. The way she converted heart breaking adversities into opportunities through her sheer grit is very inspiring.

Who is your role model? Which women do you look up to and why?
I get inspired by all the women that I come across, from different walks of life, from past and present. Who have shown grit and spirit in face of adversity and charted their journeys. I consider Meryl Streep my role model, for not only is she an legendary actor, par excellence, she is someone who is deeply cherished by all and despite the high level of stardom she has struck a balance in her personal life too. The woman I love the most is my Mother. We are little miracles I feel. We have so much to offer, our capacity to love, to endure, to comprehend and execute is unique. We are  smart, intelligent, sensuous, delicate and yet strong. Being a woman is a blessing.. it's powerful n beautiful. We are little miracles I feel. We have so much to offer, our capacity to love, to endure, to comprehend and execute is unique. We are smart, intelligent, sensuous, delicate and yet strong. Being a woman is a blessing.. it's powerful n beautiful.

Sonia Huria

Sonia Huria, Head- Communications & CSR at Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd
Sonia Huria drives the media conglomerate’s communication and social impact agendas. Sonia spearheads Viacom18’s social impact agenda channeling the company’s commitment towards three primary focus areas – health and sanitation, promoting education and preservation of art and culture. 

What is the significance of Women's Day for you?
For me, Women's Day is about encouraging an ecosystem that strives for gender equality and equity, every day. We are at the cusp of changing paradigms in gender representation where both men and women are changing norms and making their own
rules. We are seeing men and women becoming equal partners in changing the narrative of gender conversations and according to me, that is what a day like Women’s Day stands for.

How do you plan to celebrate Women's Day?
Taking on the thought of breaking gender stereotypes and accepting individual choices, this year Viacom18 is conducting a social media campaign with our employees called #ThisIsMe that aims to spread the message of celebrating individuals, both men and women, being themselves without the tints of gender typecasts.

Who is your role model? Which women do you look up to and why?
While there are many women and men who have inspired me, someone whose thoughts and beliefs I find to be most relatable is Dr. Maya Angelou. Her works as an author are exceptional in character building and enlightening about equality without being preachy about it.

Any inspirational story you have come across?
We come across inspirational stories of men and women everyday who travel on the journey to equality and equity, as OneTogether. As I see my colleagues backslapping one another, corporate leaders negotiating deals, Prime Ministers seated at the same table deliberating on matters of global import, regardless of the gender divide, I feel that each one of these are stories worth celebrating.

What according to you is the essence of being a woman?
After centuries of progressive thinking and sacrifices, gender equality today is a mainstream conversation. Women are increasingly leading from the front, be it in boardrooms or the government machinery. And at the heart of it is the ability of women to be compassionate leaders who promote cohesiveness.

Also Read: Women's Day: Sign Up In Advance From Activities Around Town And Have A Ball

Television actors speak
Devoleena Bhattacharjee: Just realise how powerful you really are, and stop spending so much time trying to become beautiful. You already are beautiful, and the power you possess will reveal itself over your lifetime. It’s enough to know that you have power, and that it will continue to grow and expand as you allow it. The good news is that realising you’re beautiful just as you are right now is the first step to harnessing the power within you and accomplishing more in life.

Shubhangi Atre: It’s pretty amazing being a woman, you have all of the essentials for life within you. You’re a very nurturing force, and not only have the power to create life, but to incubate it and deliver it to the world. On an individual level you’re able to change and become whatever you want, growing and developing into the life that you choose. It is an amazing experience and one that you’ll want to create consciously rather than letting others decide what sort of life you’ll have. Never forget that you have these powers within you.

Helly Shah: Speaking up for yourself is a learned habit, no one is just born with it, they had to develop the skill. It’s an important skill, and one that will benefit you all the days of your life and help you become the best woman you can be. This dovetails nicely with fighting for your dreams, because when you pursue a dream you’re going to have to do a lot of speaking up for yourself. There are those that will try to dissuade you from reaching your dreams and goals and you will have to find your voice.

Tejasswi Prakash: Being women is s blessing, enjoy it. Being the best version of yourself takes effort and a deliberate attempt to do so. You never really know what the best version of yourself is until you start to try to become it. You will find that once you work on improving yourself, you’ll discover a new way to get better, and it becomes a continual process. The opposite is also true, and should be avoided. If you let yourself slide, you’ll find new ways to continue that slide and become a version of yourself you never wanted to

Mahika Sharma: Don't limit yourself for society. They say that some rules are made to be broken, and still others are made to be bent.  Find out which rules are getting in the way of some good clean fun, and test the boundaries. Life isn’t about staying within the lines, it’s about doing what you want without getting in the way of others doing what they want.

Roop Durgapal: Its a long way for Indian women to actually be free, as every change takes time but we should be happy that slowly women are coming forward, expressing themselves and asking for their rights.The evil of patriarchy that has been there since ages, will not vanish overnight and women will have to stay united & consistent to fight against all odds. Just like every other evolution, I am positive about this one too.

Sara Khan: Not the number of years that we rack up but the number of times we have those moments of awe that make life worth living. Be sure that as you’re living your life you are searching out moments that will take your breath away, because that’s what we’re here for, to experience joy and awe and all of the good things that life has to offer. If you don’t lose sight of this, you’ll have an amazing life experience and you’ll keep that inner youth all the days of your life.

Debina Bonnerjee: Make sure that you flex your courage muscle daily. That way when you really need it for something really scary it will be highly developed through daily use. Doing something courageous each day means finding something that you’re fearful of and overcoming that fear to do the thing that you wanted to do. It doesn’t have to be a big thing at first, and you’ll want to start off with small things so that you build up your confidence in your ability to be courageous. As your confidence grows, you can take on bigger and bigger things.

Gitikka Ganju Dhar: I wait for a time when we won't have to specially mark a day in our calenders as : Women's Day. The world is continually changing for the better, vis-a-vis the gender imbalance in all spheres of life. But the transformation needs to unfold at a rapid pace. Women across humanity are having to fight overt or covert battles to overcome age-old patterns and unwarranted obstacles. This is not a battle we should have been made to wage. God created us as equals. The men need to step-up their contribution towards this change. And most importantly, mothers and fathers need to mould their sons and also their daughters to be right-minded and fair. For now, Happy Women's Day!"

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First Published: 08 March, 2018 14:50 IST

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