Bilkis Dadi is On the BBC List of Influential & Inspiring Women. And Keeping Her Company Are 3 More Powerful Indians


Bilkis Dadi is On the BBC List of Influential & Inspiring Women. And Keeping Her Company Are 3 More Powerful Indians

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The BBC has released its list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2020. The list features prominent Indian names – anti-CAA protest leader Bilkis Bano, para-athlete Manasi Joshi, climate activist Ridhima Pandey, and renowned musician Isaivani.

After featuring in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people list of 2020, Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis Bano has made deservingly it to another illustrious list of women. “At 82, Bilkis was part of a group of women who peacefully protested against a controversial citizenship law. She became the face of a long-running protest at the capital’s Shaheen Bagh, the Muslim locality where the protests were held,” BBC noted.

Affectionately referred to as “Bilkis Dadi”, she became a voice of resistance during the daily sit-ins as a mark of protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. “Women should feel empowered to step out of their homes and raise their voices, especially against injustice. If they don’t leave their homes, how will they showcase their strength?” Bilkis was quoted by the BBC.

The current para-badminton world champion Manasi Joshi also made it to the coveted list. An engineer by education, she is ranked number two in the SL3 singles category by the Badminton World Federation. Manasi aspires to drive a shift in how disability and para-sports are perceived in India.

“This year has been challenging to women in so many ways. Don’t let the tough times get the better of you: keep exploring every possibility. Give yourself some time off every day,” Manasi was quoted by the BBC. In a year ravaged by a pandemic and recession, everyone needs the fighter spirit displayed by Manasi, who didn’t give up even after a severe accident following which her leg had to be amputated.

Climate change is one of the big issues of the day and young activists around the world are leading the movement. In that context, it is fitting that 12-year-old activist Ridhima Pandey should find a mention in this list. At the age of nine, she had shot to prominence by filing a petition against the Government of India in response to its inaction on climate change. In 2019, along with 15 other child petitioners, Ridhima filed a lawsuit against five countries at the UN.

“Now is the time for us to be strong and united, and to prove how capable we can be in difficult times. If a woman is determined to achieve something, no-one can stop her,” the BBC quoted Ridhima. The war on climate change is far from being one, and there is a lot for everyone to learn, from young activists like Ridhima, who are committed towards a sustainable future.

Isaivani, the only female member of The Castless Collective, is a revolutionary figure. Apart from her striking hair and flamboyant style, she has opened the door for many future female gaana singers. In this male-dominated space, Isaivani spent years singing and performing Gaana music, which emerged from the working-class neighbourhoods of Northern Chennai.

“The world has changed a lot in 2020, but for women the world is changing every day: women have changed discourses and challenged spaces. This process will be constant for generations to come,” Isaivani was quoted by the BBC. She broke age-old tradition, and is an inspiration for female Gaana singers wanting to make it big.

Whether it is courage, creativity, dedication, hard work or a relentless spirit for change, there is a lot to learn from all the women who have made it to this illustrious list.