The BBC’s 100 Women 2020, the annual list of hundred women who inspired and brought about a change for the better from around the globe, features four Indian women this year – Shaheen Bagh ‘dadi‘ and anti-CAA activist Bilkis, gaana singer Isaivani of The Casteless Collective, para-athlete Manasi Joshi, and climate activist Ridhima Pandey.
BBC announced that the theme of this year’s BBC’s 100 Women 2020 was ‘How Women Led Change In 2020’ and considering the year that was, also ensured names of public health experts, scientists and healthcare workers, among others, made to the list especially as a tribute to their stellar work even as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.
The BBC’s 100 Women 2020 also featured, “women from other industries who have all been leaders of change in their own way – from politicians, lawyers and architects to actors, writers, athletes, singers and those who have sought to improve the lives of others in their community.” Actor Jane Fonda, American BLM activist Patrisse Cullors, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, actor Michelle Yeoh, are some of them.
The 100th spot on the BBC’s 100 Women 2020 list was, for the first time, not dedicated to anyone in particular but to “honour all the women who made an impact and a sacrifice in this extraordinary year and allow our audiences to fill it with someone meaningful to them,” the BBC said.
The four Indian women featured on the BBC’s 100 Women 2020 have inspiring stories that are a lesson in courage, perseverance, and speaking truth to power.
The anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh saw many courageous women come to the forefront and rally together to protest India’s new controversial and discriminatory citizenship law that denied Muslim refugees the same protections as other refugees of different faiths. The sit-in protests lasted several months and Bilkis Dadi, who came out be popularly known as Shaheen Bagh dadi, was the face of the courage and solidarity in display at Shaheen Bagh. Journalist Rana Ayyub described Bano as ‘the voice of the marginalised’. Earlier this year, Bilkis Dadi was also featured on the TIME Magazine’s Most Influential of 2020 list.
Isaivani is a gaana singer who fought hard to create her place in this otherwise male-dominated space. Gaana is a distinct style of Tamil singing originating in Chennai. She is also a part of The Casteless Collective, India’s largest ensemble political band. By venturing into this traditionally male space, Isaivani has paved the path for several other women to make this space their own. She was quoted as saying, ‘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.’
The current para-badminton world champion, Manasi Joshi is a prominent Indian para-athlete. In June 2020, she was ranked world number two in the SL3 (Standing/lower limb impairment/minor) singles. Manasi is also a disability rights activist and a truly dedicated changemaker. TIME Magazine recently listed Joshi as a Next Generation Leader and she appeared on TIME Magazine’s Asia edition’s cover as an advocate for disability rights.
Ridhima Pandey is a climate activist doing incredible work at the very young age of thirteen. Along with Greta Thunberg, Pandey was another one of the sixteen climate activists to file a lawsuit in the United Nations against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey for overlooking climate change and their lax policies towards climate protection.
Ridhima’s activism began when she was only nine-years-old, she filed a petition against the Indian government at the National Green Tribunal for its inaction in mitigating climate change. Speaking of climate change, Ridhima said, “I want a better future. I want to save my future and the future of all the children and all the people of future generations.” She is also an active educator of climate issues and for the need for biodiversity.
Bilkis Dadi, Isaivani, Manasi Joshi and Ridhima Pandey are only four of millions of women creating impact and it is due time they get the recognition they deserve and with the BBC’s 100 Women 2020, we are inching closer to recognising women changemakers striving dedicatedly each day to build a better future; reshaping, reforming, and rebuilding the world to be a more just and inclusive space.