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Journeys On Paths Less Traveled...

Women’s leadership needs to be nurtured. That is the only hope, if an inclusive and just society are to be created.

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“What can I say about the women of our country that has not been said before? Simply this: I believe women are the future of our country, if they could just take themselves seriously, value their own worth more, and leverage their collective strength to make this country and, indeed, our world, a better place to live in…. But women’s leadership needs to be nurtured. That is the only hope, if an inclusive and just society are to be created. The world today needs more feminine leadership because we face one of the most challenging tasks of transformation of our times.”

My chat with SEWA founder and Gandhian Ela Bhatt, back in 2009 when I was writing my debut book, Leading Ladies: Women Who Inspire India, remains etched in my mind to this day. When Businessworld asked me to bring out a special edition on the women who impact the way we live our lives, I was intrigued and excited by the possibilities that it offered.

Over my years as a journalist and author I have been fascinated by the journeys of women, wherever in the world they may live. I believe that no matter what our backgrounds, preoccupations, financial status or nationalities, we are all concerned about the same things: the well-being of our families, the community around us, the world in which we live, and yes, the careers that we so painstakingly build up while still keeping all the other balls in the air.
I said yes to the project with Businessworld, almost instantly but realisation dawned minutes later: I had taken the telephone call from outside the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital where my father lay fighting for his life from a botched up surgery. I simply did not have the mind space to conceptualise and deliver the edition in the time available to me.

This edition would never have happened but for the collective grit and determination of a group of women who have learnt to never walk away from opportunity simply because the challenges along the way are too many. When they heard about the project, my sisters and mother insisted that I accept the work because dad would never approve if I turned down work that I was passionate about.

Serendipitously, I found a wonderful all-women team of writers who partnered with me to bring out the edition, working almost round the clock to put together this inspiring line-up of women representing a dizzying diversity of age, background, vision and abilities in areas where women have not traditionally been present in significant numbers. Each time a writer sent in a copy or I interviewed one of them, what struck me was the audacity of their hope and ambition.

And their singular belief in themselves. When I gave up a cherished two-decade plus career in journalism, there were enough naysayers to dissuade me from turning author. I followed my heart, nevertheless. When I became an entrepreneur to set up Get Writing, my writing workshop series, to coach aspiring writers, it was another giant leap of faith. It was not just a miracle that made both of my ventures a success. I gave a hundred per cent of my time and commitment to the two things I had dreamt of and worked hard till I made those dreams into reality. Like Nisaba Godrej who said to me that she is a believer in the 10,000-hour rule, I know there is no substitute for passion and hard work to get to your goal.

A week before our deadline my father lost his battle with the illness and the world, as I knew it, imploded. My sisterhood of writers understood my need to have a couple of days off and pitched in to take on some of my responsibilities so that the edition met our deadline. At one point it seemed as if we had bitten off more than we could chew but as they say, never underestimate the power of a determined woman. And we were almost a dozen of us so it was a no-brainer that this edition would go to press on time.

There is a reason why my editorial does not have a whole lot of statistics and graphs to show why the world needs more women in positions of influence. In the digital era that we live in, there is no fact or figure that is not available at the click of a mouse. I simply wanted to let the stories of the women in this edition do the talking.

In The Road Less Travelled you will read some incredible stories of young women who have set out to achieve miraculous things: Kalyani Khona could have lived an ordinary life like other girls of her age but the gutsy 23-year-old conceived Loveability, a matchmaking app for people with disability and is deliriously happy that the first couple who met via the app is now all set to get married.

In the What I Know Now section we have a handful of trend-setting women who look back on their journeys on the path less trodden and talk about the wisdom they garnered along the way. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Meeran Chada Borwankar reminisces about the time the relaxed pace of life with her toddler son ended abruptly when the investigations into the infamous Jalgaon sex scandal landed on her lap. Her adventures as the first female IPS officer in the Maharashtra cadre is sure to inspire a generation of women to follow in her footsteps, a dream that she cherishes.

And I am sure that reading the tales of their courage, resilience and passion will inspire the countless number of women who are waiting on the sidelines for their day in the sun. Stay inspired.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Sudha Menon

The author is a columnist and the author of three non-fiction books: Leading Ladies, Legacy and Gifted. She is also the founder of a writing workshop series, Get Writing

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