Tag Archives: Great women

Women – what a wonderful mix

There are no limits on the number of fabulous women in the world.  In doing the research on my book, I am coming across so many women I wish I could focus more completely on but who don’t fit the parameters in my subject area . . . women who have gone through, traumatic, tragic experiences have become great and are doing great things as a result.

It has three parts. A tragic event occurs.  The person overcomes it or moves through it.  And because of the event (s), achieves greatness and helps others in the process. The thing I am experiencing is there are so many fabulous women in this world, doing remarkable things to help others.  Many are enabled by their status in the world to help whether they be celebrities who can attach their name to bring focus on a situation, or are from privileged or “normal” families and have not experienced the trauma of the magnitude I am looking for. To those, I have much admiration and gratitude for their services.

But I am finding these women who have been subjected to tragedies that would flatten most of us and went ahead to achieve brilliance.  Normal people faced with extraordinary experiences.  Women who have started out with hard lives faced more trauma, and gave their lives to making a better world for women or humankind.  I am humbled.

I look at these women and think of my own life, wishing I could have that extra something to do the things I always wanted to accomplish and never had the where with all or courage to reach out and work toward attainment.  But I am one of the millions who strive to do their best through their days, having ups and downs but walking onward.  Having little accomplishments that build upon each other.

Reading and writing about these women energizes me, fuels me.  Each time I find a new one I am like a parched and weary traveler who has found an oasis.  I drink of their accomplishments, of the terrors they have faced, of their energy and ability to sustain where others can only marvel.

Not to take away from men, but women desperately need leaders of their own sex to spur them onward, give them hope.  There are still too few true female leaders out there for us to latch on. They have to be world-renowned.  They can be becoming.  They can be carving out that nitch that needs exposing.  We can have History books devoted to what Women have achieved – about how History has been changed or impacted by the actions of Women.  Or, dare I say it, History books that equally represent the actions of women and men.

Take, for instance, Shirley Johnson in Tallahassee, Florida.  She began being raped when she was eight years old. At ten she became pregnant. At seventeen, she was the mother of six, married in name only.  By the time she was 27, she had 9 children with two husbands.  The first husband was the church deacon who was one of those raping her, whom she was forced to marry at age eleven.  She had to drop out of school when baby number six came along.  She was shamed and ridiculed within her church, the pastor of which was one of her rapists.  Her mother publicly accused her of lying about her attackers.

At age 56, she has found her voice.  She is fighting hard to make Florida become the first state in the Union to pass a law outlawing marriage, for any reason, before the age of eighteen. She is a caregiver, something she knows well how to do.  Nothing of privilege, she is only now receiving support in her endeavors from organizations for bringing the bill forward through the legislature.  To me, she is great.

It doesn’t take much to make a stand in this world.  You need only have a voice and be willing to use it.  You can be a ripple in the pond, sending other ripples outward.  Or be the butterfly’s wings in the Sahara that creates a hurricane in the Americas.  You can be like Mairead Maguire, who stepped out of her house to join a protest passing by and became a Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work bringing peace first to Ireland and then to other countries.

It only takes a step . . . .

Sunitha Krishnan

“My biggest strength has been realizing that in this whole effort, I am not a savior, but just a facilitator.” – Sunitha Krishnan

That said, this woman has been facilitating since she was eight as a teacher to mentally challenged children.  At twelve she worked with the underprivileged children in schools.  Again at fifteen she made her mark working in low caste communities.  As retaliation for her efforts, she was gang-raped by a group of eight men.  Anger fueled her decision to obtain  a degree in social work and work bringing child and women victims of sex trafficking to freedom.  In the past 26 years she has brought more than 12,000 victims to a better life and a chance for a future.   

The largest anti-trafficking organization in the world, her prevention program, Prajwala, consists of three shelters.  The organization has five objectives:  prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy.  Prajwala provides moral, financial, legal and social support for women and children entering the program.   For the children of prostituted women, 17 transition centers work to prevent thousands of these children from entering prostitution themselves.  Vocational programs give necessary skills to lead economically feasible lives outside prostitution.

Krishnan also drafts policy recommendations and works with the government in the fields of prevention and advocacy.  She is well aware that meaningful change can not take place without the support of government and NGOs. To date, seven states are following her policy recommendations.  Her influence has even spread to the United States where she has met with auditoriums full of students to discuss prevention and activism.

She has made well received films on the subject of prostitution and prevention.  Krishnan has had to sell her personal belongings to further her work.  Programs are not cheap and although she  takes no income from Prajwala, there are over 200 employees to pay as well as services and expenses.  Her livelihood is supported by her films and books.

Sunitha has been arrested and imprisoned for her activism.  She has been physically assaulted 14 times.  Death Threats are an ongoing concern. Her rickshaw was hit by a van yet she escaped serious injury.  She survived a poison attempt.  Acid was once flung at her.  These attempts have only strengthened her resolve.

Sunitha has received many awards including the Outstanding Woman Award in 2013 by the National Commission for Women, Padma Shri in the field of Social Work in 2016, Inagral Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence in 2016, Mother Theresa Award for Social Justice in 2014, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice International Leadership Award given in New York in 2011.  Every year has brought a host of awards. 

Sunitha was born with the heart of an activist and the drive to do good in this world.  Her indomitable spirit has brought forth formidable results.  Out of spirit and trauma, the focus of her attention was honed in on the women and children of sexual exploitation.  She is indeed a vision of inspiration.

Sindhutai Sapkal

Called the “Mother of Orphans”, Sindhutai is a formidable and loving force who has brought a stable, peaceful home environment to more than 1,442 orphaned and destitute children in the Indian State of Pune.  She continues to achieve these accomplishments through begging and giving talks to facilitate donations for her six home locations.

Born on November 14, 1948, much has been made of the fact that she was unwanted.  Her nickname, Chindhi, literally means “torn piece of cloth”.  Although an illiterate cowherd, her father, Abhimanji Sathe, shooed her out the door to attend school, against her mother’s wishes.  As the family lived in abject poverty, she used the leaves of a Bharadi tree to write on, with thorns as writing implements.   Her education ended after fourth grade when family problems and a marriage at 10, to a 30 year old man, necessitated it’s end.

Over the next decade, she gave birth to three male children.  But when she agitated for pay for the village women who collected cow dung from the fields to burn for fuel, her living situation changed.  Until then, a local strongman, in collusion with the forestry service, withheld all forms of payment.  Her work resulted in the granting of wages to these women.  The strongman, in revenge for her actions, convinced her husband to throw her out when she was overdue for the birth of her fourth child.  That night she gave birth to a girl in the cow shed.

Sindhutai separated the umbilical cord with a stone. Walking several miles to her house, she was again rejected with her mother telling her to beg at the rail station for food and shelter.  So began the next stage of Sindhutai’s life, relyng on the kindness of strangers to support herself and her daughter.  At first she sang as she begged but then she overcame her fears and started giving speeches and was so persuasive that her collections increased.

Over time  began noticing the many children who had nowhere to go.  Deducing they were orphans, Sindhutai took them under the mantle of her care, begging all the more to support her new charges.  At first she did it to make money, but then she realized her mission was to provide a home to all who needed it.  That mission has led to the establishment of six homes, with destitute, abandoned women coming for shelter and acting as housemothers.  In an effort at fairness, she turned her daughter over to the care of a Trust to not show favoritism to the orphans and destitute children.

As of the latest article found, she has adopted 1,442 children and has collected a large assortment of sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren.  Many of her children went on to take profession positions – doctors, lawyers and administrators.  She still speaks to obtain funds, all of which she pours back into the shelter and care of children. In an act of irony, her husband returned to her, but she only accepted him as a child, she was done being anything other than a mother.  Sindhutai introduces him as her oldest child.

 

 

Calling all readers

I am writing this as a request for all those who read my writings.  I’m writing a book on women who have gone through terrible traumas and horrific experiences yet through those experiences, and because of them, they are doing work which is, and have become, great.  There are so many women who are great but not so many who are great because of what they experienced and their work reflects those experiences.

I’m not writing about women like Hillary Clinton or Queen Elizabeth or even women like Angelina Jolie who does great work through the UN but her previous life does not reflect the causes of her work now.  I am writing about women like Malala Yousafez who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about the need for education for girls in Pakistan and went on to win the Noble Peace Prize and extend her mission to girls throughout the world.

Or the Radium Girls, dial-painters from 1917 through the 1930’s who were exposed to radium through their work and, though many of them died as a result, fought for worker’s compensation and led to the development of OSHA.  Their stories are tragic yet they are heroines for the struggles they went through and the victories finally achieved, although many still went without compensation for their injuries and diseases.

I am gearing this book for young adults.  So many young people are very aware of the travesties of life but women are often written out of the equation.  Some women go through tremendous struggles to achieve and this is inspiring. I think young women need hope and inspiration in this world, particularly as the emphasis is so often on devastation and ruin, evil and horror.

Therefore, I am asking for input.  Should you know of women who fit these parameters, please let me know about them.  There are many.  I would like to cover as many aspects of life as I can – para-athletes, explorers, scientists, doctors, refugee activists, politicians, social activists, etc.  Some of the women will be older or from different eras but I would like to add as many current achievers as well. If you could add a note with these names as to why they fit these parameters, that would be great.  I would appreciate your help.  Thank you.