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Taking evil head on!

On the occasion of Navratra, we salute these brave, irrepressible women who have been fighting against evil in real life. Wearing beautiful sarees, they celebrate the nine auspicious colours dedicated to the nine avatars of Goddess Durga.

Women wear beautiful sarees, as they celebrate the nine auspicious colours dedicated to the nine avatars of Goddess Durga

Pooja Agarwal

Nine years ago, Agarwal lost three of her limbs in a train accident. Her husband left her after the accident. An athlete friend encouraged her to take up sports. Many around her mocked her by saying that with just one limb intact, she would never achieve what she desired. But Agarwal didn’t give up. She borrowed shooting equipment from a friend to practise. Agarwal has made India proud by winning five medals in World Shooting Para Sport World Cup. A bank manager, she also runs a YouTube channel that teaches the specially abled how to live a self-reliant life.

Divya Puri

Pained by the plight of street dogs and the atrocities committed on them, Puri pledged to transform the lives of these helpless beings. Along with her mother she co-founded a community kitchen, which now feeds fresh food to over 450 stray dogs and cats daily. But it wasn’t easy, as people would complain that they found dogs to be a nuisance. Threats and abuses often came her way, but she didn’t give up. Puri also takes care of the sterilisation, vaccination, medical, and emergency care needs of strays, while rescuing abandoned or hurt animals.

Ananya Chatterjee

A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Chatterjee is also a sexuality and menstrual educator, subjects that are a taboo in most parts of our country. She educates young people on issues such as gender, sexuality, violence, relationship and consent. Chatterjee battled sexual harassment, bullying by both peers and teachers in her school and college days which resulted in anxiety disorder and depression. She took up gender studies to sensitise people about violence against women.

Women wear beautiful sarees, as they celebrate the nine auspicious colours dedicated to the nine avatars of Goddess Durga
Women wear beautiful sarees, as they celebrate the nine auspicious colours dedicated to the nine avatars of Goddess Durga

Rina Khan

Popularly known as Rina Di in the slum near her locality, Khan is the go-to-person for illiterate families that need help with reading prescriptions, getting ambulances booked or opening a bank account. She was forced to quit studies after 10th due to the extremely trying financial challenges her family was going through. But Khan didn’t let adversities dampen her spirit and took to helping those in need in her area. Khan also helps child abuse and domestic violence survivors in her area. She identifies those in distress and helps them reach out to the police station and get their case registered.

Laxmi Agarwal

In 2005, a stalker threw acid on Agarwal, leaving her face charred. She was just 15. In 2006, she filed a PIL seeking a ban on acid sale. She won the case after 11 years. Agarwal received the Women Courage Award by Michelle Obama in the year 2014. Despite being India’s best-known acid attack survivor, she fell upon hard times in 2018. She had no money in her account, no job and no place to live. Landlords refused to give her accommodation saying that they didn’t want their kids to get scared by her disfigured face. After HT published her story, many came ahead to help her. Today, her NGO, The Laxmi Foundation is helping acid attack survivors start life afresh. Agarwal’s story has been adapted in Chhapaak (2020), a movie starring Deepika Padukone.

Yogita Bhayana

She quit a glamorous career in hospitality to take up the cause of the distressed. Bhayana has been relentlessly fighting against the rape culture for the last 9 years. The horrific Nirbhaya incident had a deep impact on Bhayana. She spearheaded the protest to change the juvenile justice law age limit for rapists from 18 to 16 years. The Rajya Sabha passed the bill in 2016. Bhayana has taken up several judicial battles on the behalf of rape survivors, along with providing them medical, psychological and financial support. She has also launched various campaigns that urge people to raise boys better instead of telling women to behave.

Nidhi Arora

Nidhi Arora was often told that she was heavy, lazy and not fit to do anything. She was bullied and made fun of throughout school and college. But she did not let haters kill her confidence. After a phase of despair, she realised that she loved herself enough to not let negativity take over life. Arora is a popular body positive influencer and a lifestyle blogger, who follows her heart and does all that she likes. She has shot for leading lifestyle brands, including activewear and beachwear. Choosing energy and happiness over self-doubt, she is inspiring thousands of women on social media with her joyful posts.

Naaz Joshi

Naaz Joshi was disowned by her family because they believed she would bring them disgrace due to her feminine behaviour. She did odd jobs and graduated from NIFT and post graduated in MBA in 2006.Being a woman trapped in a male body, she was brutally targeted in school, colleges and workplace. In 2013, she entered the modelling industry and became India’s first trans cover model in 2015. Joshi has won seven global beauty pageants. A proud mother of a three-year-old girl, she encourages couples to adopt and not go for surrogacy.

Sapna Datta

Ignoring snide, derogatory remarks about being too old to pursue her passion, Datta started modelling and acting at the age of 50. She boldly took up the fight against ageism, living life the way she wanted to. She loves to wear bright red shades, and sports her lovely grey hair like a crown. Every time she is asked to colour her hair black for a shoot to look younger or ‘fit in’, she refuses to take up the

assignment. A cancer survivor, she is inspiring countless women to not conform to the norms that limit a woman and her freedom.

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