Gaana singer Isaivani, Shaheen Bagh dadi among BBC’s 100 women list

BBC 100 women list 2020 features 99 women around the world “who are leading change and making a difference during these turbulent times.” One name was left blank as a tribute.

Gaana singer and the only woman of The Casteless Collective Isaivani, Shaheen Bagh protestor Bilkis Bano (also known as Shaheen Bagh Dadi), teen environmental activist Ridhima Pandey, and para-athlete Manasi Joshi are named among BBC 100 Women list this year.

The list featured 99 inspirational women across categories of knowledge, leadership, creativity, and identity.

One spot has been left blank as a tribute, and BBC said this is considering “countless women around the world have made sacrifices to help others” in this extraordinary year.  

Singer Isaivani is the only Indian woman recognised for her work in the creative field while others were named for their leadership efforts to drive change.


Isaivani came to the limelight as a gaana singer, which is traditionally dominated by male composers and singers. The music genre emerged from working class neighbourhood of North Chennai. Isaivani is a member of The Casteless Collective, a Tamil-Indie band which was formed in 2017.

She was quoted 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.”

Ridhima Pandey

A humbled Ridhima Pandey, a climate activist based in Uttarakhand, said the recognition encourages her to keep working towards environmentalism.

Now 13, Ridhima started voicing against climate change at the age of nine by filing a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the government of India for not implementing environmental laws.

She was also among the 14 children climate activist, including Greta Thunberg, to petition at the United Nations last year.

Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano is known for her fight for justice and resilience in leading the protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.

The 82-year-old earlier made headlines as TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people for 2020

Manasi Joshi  

Para-athlete Manasi Joshi is the current para-badminton world champion. An accident in December 2011 caused her to amputate her leg and the former software engineer rose to fame as a para-athlete and advocate for the rights of disabled people.

In June 2020, the Badminton World Federation ranked her world number two in the SL3 singles.

“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,” she told BBC.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta


Updates from around the world