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From Slam Poets to 'Eco-Feminists', BBC's 100 Most Influential Women 2019 List Has 7 Indians

This year's list includes Aranya Johar, Vandana Shiva, Parveena Ahanger and Natasha Noel, among others.


Updated:October 16, 2019, 1:57 PM IST
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From Slam Poets to 'Eco-Feminists', BBC's 100 Most Influential Women 2019 List Has 7 Indians
Aranya Johar, Vandana Shiva, Susmita Mohanty, Praveena Ahanger| Image credit: Twitter

The BBC on Wednesday released its list of 100 Women 2019 and seven of them are from India. The annual list names 100 inspirational, enterprising influential women from various walks of life.

This year's list boasts of an extensive bouquet of names from diverse jobs, backgrounds and countries. Even the seven women from India reflect this diversity. While some of them are old names that have been around and appreciated, some brand new and young names have also been included in the list.

Parveena Ahanger


Known as the "Iron Lady of Kashmir", Parveena Ahanger is a human rights activist from Kashmir and the founder of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). After her son disappeared in the 90s, Ahanger tried her best to locate him and bring him back home but to no avail. Next year will mark three decades of the boy's disappearance. In the past 20 years, thousands of young boys and men have gone missing in Kashmir. A Jan 2019 report in Al Jazeera quoted human rights organisations to have roughly put the number of disappearances since 1989 at 8,000. APDP campaigns against enforced and or involuntary disappearances. It has closely researched and documented incidents of enforced capture Kashmir and can personally vouch for at least a thousand such cases.

Aranya Johar


One of the most surprising (albeit pleasantly) names on the list is that of a young poet and performer Aranya Johar. The 21-year-old Sophia college student from Mumbai shot to fame in 2017 after her first spoken-word poem 'A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender' went viral on social media. Through her simple yet powerful slam poetry, Johar makes hard points about misogyny, sexism, gender inequality, slut-shaming, stereotypes, sexual abuse and assault. Johar, who is now a popular influencer with thousands of followers on her social handles, has also collaborated with Akshay Kumar for his film Padman's promotions and used the opportunity to speak about menstrual stigma and hygiene. When Johar was in Class 7, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a young adult, Johar tries to explore themes based on mental health and conditioning. Despite getting trolled on social media and given rape and death threats, Johar continues to put up content. Her second poem, "The Language of Equality" was released ahead of International Women's Day 2019.

Susmita Mohanty


India "space-woman" Susmita Mohanty is a space entrepreneur who stared India's first private space start-up. Daughter of a former Indian Space Research Organisation scientist, Mohanty started her career early and her list of credentials is by no diminutive. Mohanty received her training in prestigious institutions such as India’s National Institute of Design, France’s International Space University (ISU), went on to acquire a PhD in aerospace architecture from Sweden. She has worked at Boeing and NASA, and has consulted with European Space Agency (ESA) and even ISRO, among other space organisations. she founded her start-up, Earth2Orbit, in 2008 and has been working toward using space as a resource for monitoring climate change.

Subhalakshmi Nandi


For the past 15 years, renowned gender activist and Policy Director at International Center for Research on Women, Subhalakshmi Nandi has worked on improving gender equality in Asia. She has also served as the head of the Women's Economic Empowerment Unit at UN Women. Her work is focused mainly on women farmers and women's education and she has also campaigned extensively for ending violence against women. She has also written extensively on "feminization of agriculture".

Natasha Noel


Born and raised in Mumbai, Natasha Noel lost her mother at age 3 and battled sexual abuse (which started at age 7) well into her early teenage years. However, Noel fought back the depression and ensuing mental health issues with dance and holistic fitness. Today, Noel, 26, is a yoga guru, motivational speaker and social media influencer. She gives talks on body positivity and encourages her followers to talk about mental health without worrying about being singled out.

Vandana Shiva


A scholar, gender activist, food-sovereignty advocate and prolific writer, Vandana Shiva has become known for a brand of feminism that is oriented to fighting climate change. The "ecofeminist" was the pioneer of India's "Chipko" (tree-hugging) movement in the 1970s to defend trees from being felled. Having written over 20 books and winning the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, Shiva is the founder of the NGO Navdanya that works toward finding biodiversity-driven solutions for ecological and economic problems.

Dr Pragati Singh


After working in the field of maternal, child and reproductive health for several years, Dr Vandana Singh realised that several women came to her with problems like they did not want to have intercourse with their husbands or partners. This triggered her to research more into asexuality. In time, Singh formed the online community "Indian Aces" in 2014, Inia's first platform for addressing asexual people and asexuality. Not just a doctor, Singh is also a creative and a poet. She won the Laadli award for her poetry based on asexuality. She regularly presents papers and research in prestigious universities and colleges outside of India.

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