Happy Women's Day - Celebrating the unsung heroes transforming India!

It's the time of the year once again when we celebrate women across the world, and rightly so. I rarely do posts on specific days, but today I can't help but share stories of some of the very inspiring women I met while traveling across India who are making a change to the society and doing it selflessly.

I collected their stories as part of my project, Tell Me Your Dream, and each one of them deserves a special mention here. There are many more like them who are toiling hard to improve the lives of people around them, but we just don't know about them. This is my humble attempt to bring to fore the stories of some such women.

dr sasi vani ahmedabad kmc womens day india
Dr Sasi Vani

If you know someone who you think should be interviewed and featured by me, few free to comment below or drop me an email.

Jyoti Pathania, Pune

Working for education of children of women from red-light areas

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"My dream is to get maximum number of children from Budhwar Peth (Pune's red light area ) into the mainstream society and to help the women there overcome the trauma and to come out of it."

When Jyoti Pathania moved from Mumbai to Pune after her marriage, she soon became a focal point for all distressed women - rich women beaten up by their husbands, maids abused by the men in the family and many more. She wanted to make a difference in their lives and started an organization called 'Chaitanya Mahila Mandal' and a counseling center called 'Kutumb Sakhi'.

Over the years she realised that the most needy were the women who worked in the red light area of the city - Budhwar Peth. She got little financial support from the government, but still tied up with them for project 'Utkarsh', for prevention of second generation trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. She runs a night school for the children of sex workers everyday between 6-9pm. Once a little older, they are shifted out of the area to another short stay home called 'Ashray', with the consent of their mothers.

While Jyoti did this work, she had fantastic support from her family as well. She has one son and he is now an IAS officer. Her husband runs a small scale industry which she initially started but then had to leave as she got busy with her social work. Her future plans are ambitious, and even with little support she knows she will be able to achieve all of those objectives.

Dr Sasi Vani, Ahmedabad

Working for training of healthcare workers to save lives of newborns at birth

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"I have a constant dream for almost the last thirty five years - to build a Child and Maternal Health Institute in Gujarat. Multiple times in the past it almost came true, but something or the other stopped it from happening. The best place for doing this would be VS hospital in Ahmedabad."

For a doctor, Dr Vani has lived the life of a complete superstar. She comes from a Gujarati family which shifted to Tamil Nadu about 300 years back. She did medicine there and then got married and shifted to Ahmedabad with her doctor husband in 1963-64.

Once here she got involved in a big way in community healthcare. She led very many initiatives especially in the field of vaccination for kids and recounted many adventures to me. Once she was even cornered in a village when she was doing a camp because the villagers thought vaccination was for sterilization. She persuasion skills worked and later they became champions of her work.

At times to convince the villagers to come for these health camps she even did small movie shows in villages - Upkar, Anand and a few more. This strategy worked extremely well in those days. This and many more innovative initiatives have always been part of her work.

Now she has retired but still works almost twenty four hours in the day. She visits villages, meets healthcare workers, mothers and families and does everything possible to make their lives better.

Though she has been in Gujarat for long, she still misses Tamil Nadu, especially for its music and culture.

Dr Jyotsna Murthy, Chennai

Giving smiles to children with Cleft lip

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"My dream is to be able to continue to contribute to the society. Currently I do it by bringing smiles to the children who are born with cleft lip, and I want to continue doing it."

Every year about 35,0000 children are born with cleft lip in India and Dr Jyotsna Murthy brings smiles to them and to their families, quite literally. Cleft lip a medical condition where the upper lip is split on one or both sides of center and is often associated with Cleft Palate.

She is a Patel originally from Anand, Gujarat and went into medical school just because she liked Biology over other subjects. However, very soon she realised that she liked plastic surgery and working with and for children, as they always 'make your day'.

Jyotsna's husband is originally from Andhra Pradesh and a disciple of Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry so they settled in Chennai about a decade back to be close to the Ashram. Now she works as a surgeon with a medical college where can also treat many patients for free. Bringing back smiles to as many kids as possible has now become a mission of her life.

Aruna, Manchar

Mobilizing hundreds of self-help groups in rural Maharashtra

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"I dream of expanding my business of of Nachni (Ragi) laddoos and biscuits because they are so good for health, but I don't have the resources for it. I need about 3-4 lakh rupees for setting up the plant."

In 2005 State Bask of India promoted that formation of Self Help Groups (SHG) in Aruna Ramdas Take's village and she joined the movement while heartedly. She led the initiative and helped mobilizing 20,000 women and in forming 2,000 SGHs. These groups work towards women empowerment by helping them learn new skills or use their skills to earn a living.

Now she leads a SHG through which she supplies for patients at a government hospital. The group is caked 'Renuka Mata Group' and comprises of five women from her village. They sell meny of her products in exhibitions in cities during different fairs.

Aruna has five daughters and one son. She studied only till tenth grade but wants all her children to study more and build their careers.

Devbala, Ahmedabad

Works with aanganwadi workers in rural Gujarat to help transform healthcare

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"I dream that the day I get retired and leave this place, no one should say that I didn't do enough for the community or I did something to harm anyone. I have dedicated my life to bring about a change here, and its been a very difficult journey. I want to be remembered for my work."

It was Devbala's tryst with Emergency in 1975, when her brother was jailed for leading an agitation, that made her realize that she wanted to do something that would impact the life of common man. She reread Gandhi then and was inspired by his path of non-violence. She was only fifteen then.

After that she moved to Ahmedabad with her husband, did a course on MSW and took up a posting in a remote border village. Over the years she has toiled hard to improve healthcare and numerous other indices in her taluka. Her work is extremely challenging but she has managed to keep her flock of 200+ Aanganwadi workers happy and motivated.

Saira, Pune

Runs the 'Sunshine Playroom' program for underprivileged children at Sassoon Hospital

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"I think most of my dreams have been fulfilled and the ones I have now are for my kids. Apart from that I worked really like to expand the network of volunteers for the with that I do at the hospital. I think I will certainly call you next to join me at the hospital next."

Saira originally comes from Assam and grew up at the boarding school in Shillong, Meghalaya. These years at school were also the most formative ones for her and inculcated the sense of community living and caring for others in her.

For the last fifteen years she has been leading a volunteer program called 'Sunshine Playroom' at the paediatric ward in Sasoon Hospital. The key objective is to get supplies for underprivileged kids who can't afford medical care, including things like blood, medicines and sometime even love through people who come and spend time with them.

Featured in the picture is her loving dog Toby along with her hands.

Dr Deshmukh, Maharashtra

Transforming a rural hospital

A photo posted by #Pune (@siddharthajoshi) on

"I have no personal dreams. I will retire in two years and after that I would like to give all my time for social work, especially in the field of healthcare."

Dr Deshmukh was born in a family of landlords and had always been financially very stable and politically well connected. In her life it was her grandfather who inspired her the most - he was passionate about education, never differentiated between a boy and girl, and was the reason why she learnt English right from her childhood even though they lived in a village. Her father and uncles, on the other had, never attended school.

She studied medicine and got married quickly after that. However, she was widowed at a very young age right after the birth of her second child and remained unmarried thereafter. At the age of 35, she decided to pursue her passion for Cardiac Anesthesia and did her masters. However, she could never get a job in the government healthcare system and instead worked tirelessly across the state of Maharashtra on the field.

She is currently the Medical Superintendent of Manchar hospital and is widely recognized as the force behind the complete transformation of the hospital in just three years. Currently, it's considered to be one of the best sub-district hospitals in the state.

She credits her success to just one thing - Attitude, which is also something which she finds missing in many.


  1. A refreshing list sid... personally i believe that womens day has become more of a hype!!

    However, your story and these women would have inspired me any day you had chosen to post this :)


  2. Beautiful women and beautiful stories! Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Sid, this is a great tribute to a group of amazing women. Beauty, brains, and compassion. Fantastic post Sid...

  4. We need more such women around India, and more such blog posts that spread positive news :)

  5. That was the great article i love that thanks for sharing

  6. Great and very warm article about women a people who give life, and on the end about our moms.

  7. Mr. Sid you need also come and visit Greece, Santorini, Myconos etc.

  8. Hi Joshi
    Nice content of your article and great womens stories. Thanks for sharing this content with us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrZcPOdll4o

  9. Super article.. I think this is the best article I've ever read..

  10. Such an inspiring article. Thanks for sharing.


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