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11 Crusaders for Gender Justice in India

gender justice crusaders in india

The decades-old fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment has been fraught with challenges. And yet, the movement persists, stronger than ever today, because of everyday heroes – individuals and organizations – who take up the mantle and fight the good fight in their everyday lives. Here are some key lessons from their work and lives for those of us who are looking to create a gender-just world:

A Lesson in Sustaining and Growing Gender Justice Projects from Trisha Mishra

Digital to On-Ground

A Lesson in Sustaining and Growing Gender Justice Projects from Trisha Mishra

29-year-old Trisha Mishra launched ‘Maansik Mantra’, a digital awareness campaign to promote menstrual wellness and sexual and reproductive rights of sex workers, as a part of a Fellowship program. After its success online, Trisha decided to scale its impact on-ground. Thanks to her relentless energy and support from development organizations, the project today work towards the empowerment of women, transgender and intersex persons who work as sex workers, domestic workers and their adolescent children, and survivors of human trafficking, among others.

A Lesson from Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action & Research (PUKAR)

Participatory Action Research to Build Resilient Communities:

A Lesson from Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action & Research (PUKAR)

PUKAR, a Mumbai-based organization works towards ensuring the ‘Right to Research as a means for community development and welfare. With a belief that organic community knowledge is a crucial pathway toward the development of a sustainable, inclusive interdependent world, PUKAR has worked with adolescents, parents, youth communities, and school dropouts to facilitate change and build a gender-equal society.

A Lesson in Building Scalable Solutions from Meghana Srinivas

Technology Against Sexual Violence:

A Lesson in Building Scalable Solutions from Meghana Srinivas

Meghana Srinivas is a female entrepreneur, who had personally observed cases of workplace misconduct during the #MeToo movement in India, and channeled her energy and anger into creating a tech solution to support survivors to access justice in a safe and enabling environment. Along with being the founder of TrustIn, Meghana also leveraged technology to counter violence by creating TrustBot, which enables free public access to psychosocial support and resources for survivors of domestic violence, in partnership with Saahas, a Chennai-based organization.

A Lesson from Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC)

Bringing Females to the Forefront of Travel Experiences:

A Lesson from Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC)

This Ladakh-based travel company is working to change the landscape of India’s travel industry, and how! Founded by Thinlas Chorol, Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC) is an all-women trekking company based in Ladakh, countering the serious dearth of women trekking guides and providing livelihoods and equal opportunities to women in Ladakh’s villages. The all-women team of trekking guides and porters also supports local women-led businesses, homestays, and markets through its work.

A Lesson in Engaging with Local Political Bodies from Mahila Mukti Sansthan

Political Representation to Foster Gender Equality:

A Lesson in Engaging with Local Political Bodies from Mahila Mukti Sansthan

Local decentralized political bodies such as the Panchayat system in India are a means to empower communities by working at the grassroots level. For Mahila Mukti Sansthan, a Hazaribagh-based organization, the focus is on increasing the representation of Dalit, Adivasi, and Muslim women in these local bodies to ensure decision-making powers are equitably distributed among populations. The organization works towards increasing the representation of women’s leadership within the Panchayat body to combat gender-based violence.

A Lesson in Building Individual and Community Resilience from Grace Banu

Changing Attitudes, Enabling Access to Rights and Justice:

A Lesson in Building Individual and Community Resilience from Grace Banu

A transgender- and Dalit- rights activist and India’s first transgender woman engineer, Grace Banu has been among the most powerful voices advocating for the inclusion of transgender persons in education, employment, and horizontal reservation for a seat at every table. Through personal efforts, she’s ensured that transgender women have access to education, healthcare, legal support, and employment, building community strength and resilience. She’s the co-founder of the Transgender Rights Now Collective, which works towards meaningful and intentional inclusion of transgender persons, through which she has scaled these personal efforts.

A Lesson from Nazariya - Queer Feminist Resource Group

Intersectional Approaches to Countering Gender-Based Violence:

A Lesson from Nazariya – Queer Feminist Resource Group

Nazariya, a queer feminist organization, founded by Rituparna Borah, Ritambhara Mehta, and Purnima Gupta, works towards sharpening the intersectional lens in the movement for gender justice. Working with and for Queer communities to inform discourse around sexual and gender-based violence, Nazariya undertakes crisis intervention for Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LBT) women in India and Bangladesh, training, and sensitization of several institutions on LBT issues and mental health support. Nazariya’s support for the community is multifaceted, ranging from hosting sensitization workshops to livelihood opportunities, support, and mental healthcare.

A Lesson from Mana Mandlekar on Collective Action Against Gender-Based Violence

From Empowerment of the Self to Empowering the Community:

A Lesson from Mana Mandlekar on Collective Action Against Gender-Based Violence

Mana Mandlekar, a young Dalit feminist belonging to a family of goat herders, was enrolled in a Karate class when she realized that her confidence and courage increased, and she felt self-empowered. Taking her learnings, she founded Tinka Samajik Sansthan, which works with adolescents, using the medium of sport, to build voice and agency, and empowerment to work towards creating safe, gender-just environments free of violence.  Her areas of work include gender equality, menstrual health management, prevention programs for violence against women, child sexual abuse, and child marriage.

A Lesson in Female Economic Empowerment from Archana Women’s Centre (AWC)

Breaking Barriers in Careers:

A Lesson in Female Economic Empowerment from Archana Women’s Centre (AWC)

Even today in 2022, professions such as construction work or masonry are looked at as primarily suited for men. However, in Kottayam, Kerala, Archana Women’s Centre is changing the landscape of several male-dominated industries and sectors, by encouraging, training, and placing women in fields such as masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and driving. Founded in 2014 by Thresiamma Mathew, AWC is as invested in community gender empowerment as it is within its own team.

A Lesson from Shalin Maria Lawrence in Using Varying Approaches To Counter Caste-Based Sexual Violence

Writing, Training, Speaking:

A Lesson from Shalin Maria Lawrence in Using Varying Approaches To Counter Caste-Based Sexual Violence

A survivor of domestic violence and caste- and gender-based workplace discrimination, Shalin Maria Lawrence, a writer, trainer, speaker, and activist, quit a comfortable corporate job, to take up working towards caste- and gender justice. A speaker at various forums and a prominent columnist in Tamil publications, Shalin is vocal about the need for intentional, intersectional action for meaningful gender justice. Shalin also trains institutions on providing safe structures for gender and caste minorities.

A Lesson in Youth Engagement for Gender Justice from Vikalp Sansthan

Empowering Young Voices to Counter Gender-Based Violence:

A Lesson in Youth Engagement for Gender Justice from Vikalp Sansthan

Rajasthan-based Vikalp Sansthan engages with youth populations to enable gender empowerment and increase awareness of social issues. Its programs focus on the capacity building of youth to counter issues of child marriage, and foster safe and empowering spaces for all. Vikalp has enabled thousands of girls to receive higher education and has played an instrumental role in delaying and/or countering thousands of early/child marriages in the state.

The individuals and institutions on this list are finalists in the race for the prestigious Martha Farrell Award for Excellence in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality 2022, offered by Martha Farrell Foundation, in partnership with PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) and the Rural Development Trust, Anantapur. Winners will be announced on the 19th of November. Know any other gender justice champions? Add to this list.


Authored by Nalini Menon and Nitya Sriram, belonging to the Partnerships team at the Martha Farrell Foundation. 

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