Love & Life

20 Women Who Changed Themselves to Challenge Their World

These 20 women battled personal challenges and went through their own human revolution before creating ripples of change in the world around them.

On International Women’s Day, we bring to you stories of 20 remarkable women who walked the fire of self-transformation, and then set about changing the world they lived in.

Shahla Ettefagh

SHAHLA ETTEFAGH

Iranian-American educationist Shahla Ettefagh moved from California to Rishikesh to set up a pathbreaking school for the hill town’s poorest children – and has moved the heavens and earth in the process.

Read her story here.

Sariah Sizemore

SARIAH SIZEMORE

A life coach, corporate trainer and yoga teacher based in California, Sariah Sizemore is a woman with a gift for helping people cultivate healthy, happy, and balanced lifestyles. But her deep wealth of knowledge about healing and wellness arose due to a childhood raised in a home full of conflict, and the obstacles she had to overcome in her own life.

Read her story here.

Hetal Kasliwal

HETAL KASLIWAL

Beauty was a sensitive subject for Hetal Kasliwal, a homeopathic paediatrician from Nasik, Maharashtra, and mother of two. Acutely aware of her ‘wheatish’ complexion, matters became worse as she developed facial paralysis after the birth of her first child. And so, when she was crowned Mrs West India, it felt like vindication. And yet, because it came after years of personal growth and self-actualisation, it also felt like home.

Read the rest of her story here.

Atikaa Ahluwalia

ATIKAA AHLUWALIA

Atikaa Ahluwalia was educated, well-travelled and worked in fashion. She also had to face partner violence. Her credentials only made it harder for her agony to be taken seriously by the powers that be.

Read her candid first-person piece here.

Medha Saha

MEDHA SAHA

Her first day of engineering college turned out to be the turning point for teenager Medha Saha – she lost a leg in a bus accident but earned the heart of a hero.

Read her journey here.

Sanmeet Kaur

SANMEET KAUR

Sanmeet Kaur went through an experience no mother ever should: losing her nine-year-old son to cancer. Yet she turned her life’s greatest loss into a catalyst for her life’s grandest work.

Read her story here.

Prerona Roy

PRERONA ROY

Prerona Roy went from being a small-town girl to a super achiever in a US-based multinational, but it took a devastating fire and 82% burns to unleash the true power of her spirit.

Read her story here.

Dr Malvika Iyer

DR MALVIKA IYER

She lost her arms to a freak bomb blast, but that did not stop Malvika Iyer from completing her PhD, being a fashion icon, travelling the world and being a speaker at the UN and World Economic Forum.

Read her amazing story here.

Samra Zafar

SAMRA ZAFAR

Samra Zafar escaped a teen marriage and fought a suppressive culture to earn her dignity and education; now she inspires others to do the same.

Read her story here.

Yaschica Dutt

YASHICA DUTT

Having hidden her identity for years, Yashica Dutt revealed her caste publicly in solidarity with fellow Dalits at the receiving end of casteism. Now she is an inspiration and role model for young Dalits striving to fight discrimination.

Read her interview here.

Rani Khanam

RANI KHANAM

Rani Khanam dances Kathak to Islamic verses, and has broken several of her community taboos in doing so. “I was told that dancing is banned in Islam. I was the first Muslim girl from my orthodox community to take out my veil (burkha) against the will of the community. It was my innermost desire to dance, to free myself from the suppression,” she says.

Read her story here.

Tashi and Nungshi Malik

TASHI AND NUNGSHI MALIK

The intrepid Tashi and Nungshi Malik set out to conquer the Seven Summits and the North and South Pole to show patriarchal Indian families what daughters can do. “The first thing we did on reaching a summit was to strike a steel plate with a spoon as a celebration of being girls, much like families in many parts of rural India do to celebrate and announce the birth of male child to their neighbours!” they say.

Read their interview here.

Sanhita Kargupta

SANHITA KARGUPTA

It took two devastating divorces and a behavioural disorder for Sanhita Kargupta to take up psychotherapy to heal herself and help others.

Read her story here.

Jasvinder Sanghera

JASVINDER SANGHERA

Jasvinder Sanghera escaped a forced marriage and was disowned by her family. Her charity now works for victims of honour-based abuse and has helped introduce a new law in UK.

Read her interview here.

Ajaita Shah

AJAITA SHAH

With her social enterprise that equips rural women with technology and training, Ajaita Shah is powering a wave of sustainable development. But before her project ‘Solar Sahelis’ could take off, she had to go through her own difficult journey of divorce and finding herself.

Read her story here.

Geetu Hinduja

GEETU HINDUJA

From a gallerist to singer-songwriter, from a mother of three in a joint family to single again, Geetu Hinduja has had a remarkable journey. The entrepreneur turned singer at 50, and has never felt happier.

Read her story here.

Reena Rai

REENA RAI

Reena Rai’s life was its lowest point when an unusual friendship roused her to launch India’s first transgender beauty pageant. Overcoming insurmountable personal and professional hurdles, she has given the community a new chance at proving their worth.

Read her story here.

Madhu Singhal

MADHU SINGHAL

Madhu Singhal’s own personal challenges and visual impairment triggered the founding of Mitra Jyothi, a 30-year-old organization that empowers the disabled.

Read her story here.

Sheetal Kapoor

SHEETAL KAPOOR

Sheetal Kapoor spent two decades of her life being the quintessential housewife, until she joined her husband’s garment business and turned it into an e-commerce success story.

Read her story here.

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