10 heart-warming stories our readers loved in 2022
HerStory presents a list of 10 stories that warmed our hearts and will inspire other women to be the change they wish to see.
As with every year at HerStory, 2022 was no different when it came to celebrating women. We told stories of successes and failures, grit and gumption as women set out to realise their dreams and make a difference in their own ways.
These are also stories of impact—women building for other women, giving back to society, and making a mark in diverse fields.
While every story is special to us, we have compiled a list of the top 10 stories that touched our readers’ hearts this year.
This retired government employee is championing women-friendly workplaces
Kusumum R Punnapra grew up with activism in her blood. Her grandfather and parents were all social activists who inspired her to start young. After she retired from Keltron, she wrote an opinion piece loosely translated from Malayalam as ‘Tech babies are denied breastmilk’, published in September 2014 in the Mathrubhumi newspaper.
She also sent the article to the Human Rights Commission, which triggered the authorities into action. First, the Employees’ State Insurance-ESI Act, 1948 was amended, following which the 1961 Maternity Benefits Act was amended on the basis of her petition. In 2015, a gazette notification was passed. It directed establishments with 50 or more employees to have daycare centres and facilities for women to nurse their babies within 500 metres of the workplace. The law allowing six months of maternity leave for women in the IT sector was finally passed in 2017.
Read her story here.
Disability didn’t stop Ramya HM from making an impact
When she was born, the doctors told Ramya HM’s mother that she may not survive beyond three months. Three decades later, Ramya works as a Kannada teacher in a school run by the Association of People with Disability (APD) in Bengaluru. She has proved that she is a fighter, many times over.
Ramya suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), commonly known as brittle bone disease, a rare genetic disorder present from birth.
Despite the many challenges in her path, Ramya completed a BEd programme from Sharada College, Mulbagal, an institution that was very accommodating of her condition.
She teaches Kannada to students from Class 4 through Class 7. Read her story of courage here.
At 78, Padmimi Jog has taught yoga and pranayama to jawans at 12,300ft
Until her husband Lt Col Pratap Jog’s retirement in 1983, Padmini was content with travelling all over the country with him and also teaching in Montessori schools wherever they were posted.
After they returned to their hometown, Nagpur, the couple attended a Yoga Abhyasi Camp in Nagpur, passed the relevant exams, and began teaching others. In 2004, they also attended a camp conducted by yoga guru Baba Ramdev in Haridwar after which they start getting invited to conduct camps all over India.
From Monday to Friday, every week, civilians, schools, colleges, old age homes, the Rotary, and senior citizens gathered to attend their camps. They also held sessions at Army, Navy, and Air Force bases and at police centres (CRPF, SRPF, BSF, and ITBP). These included everyone at the bases and also schools in the vicinity like Kendriya Vidyalayas and Army Public Schools.
After Lt Jog’s sudden demise following a heart attack, Padmini continued with their mission—teaching yoga and pranayama.
So far, she has completed around 940 camps and in September this year, travelled to the border areas in Jammu and Kashmir to teach jawans. Read all about her incredible mission here.
Meet the Naga woman who is empowering others
From a tiny hamlet in Nagaland’s Naga United Village in Dimapur, Vekuvolo Dozo runs her ethnic weaving brand, Viko Ethnic, which makes home accessories like table linen, apparel, and more, and now has a formidable line of collections with a customer base from across India.
The enterprise has onboarded several other women from the village, many of whom are widows, and has given them the opportunity to earn their livelihood using a skill they are familiar with.
Veku grew up watching her mother and sister sit for hours on the loom to make cloth bags and sell them in the local market as a way of income generation.
In August 2021, Veku decided to take things to the next level and started sowing cotton seeds so as to have complete control of the manufacturing process–from sourcing the raw material to selling the completed product.
This is her story.
Married at 14, this community leader is empowering women and children
She is known as Meenu Didi in her social circles—someone to whom children and women run to get information and share their problems. But, in her own home, Meenu has been raging a determined battle—fighting stereotypes and standing her ground when her husband and in-laws prohibited her from going out to work.
Meenu had to quit her studies after Class 8 to get married.
In 2013, Meenu tried to secure admission for one of her kids under the Right to Education (RTE) Act 12.1.c. Although she failed in her attempt, it did not stop her from helping other parents like her in the community. She educated them on the RTE process and assisted them with documentation and form-filling.
Read her story of determination here.
This activist has rescued over 7K girls and boys from trafficking
Pallabi Ghosh, born and raised in Lumding, Assam, has so far rescued more than 7,000 girls and boys from trafficking, along with law enforcement agencies.
With Impact & Dialogue Foundation, she aims to create awareness about trafficking of all forms.
She admits there is a serious problem with shelter homes where the rescue children are housed with the intellectually-challenged, rape survivors, and convicts and live in pathetic conditions. This led to her thinking beyond rescue to tackle the problem at its source.
Impact and Dialogue Foundation focuses on Assam where Pallabi reaches out to social welfare departments and panchayat (village council) leaders, explaining the need for awareness sessions on trafficking and how they would benefit. Read about her work here.
At 66, Pushpa Bhatt completed the world’s highest ultramarathon
Three years ago, when Pushpa Bhatt was 63 years old, she ran the world’s highest ultramarathon, the Khardung La Challenge, across a 72-km stretch, 17,852 feet above sea level. However, as luck would have it, she missed the cut-off by four minutes, even though she had finished the first three stretches well in time.
A miscalculation in the countdown mainly led to her losing out in the final stretch. This year, she completed the challenge with many minutes to spare.
Pushpa took up running at the age of 47. She ran the New York Marathon in 2018 where she clocked a personal best of 4 hours 58 minutes, despite all the elevations, the bridges, and the huge crowds. She also completed the Berlin Marathon in September 2019. You can trace her journey here.
Meet Bollywood’s first stuntwoman who performs death-defying stunts
Sanober Pardiwalla has been working as a stunt double in Bollywood since she was 12 years old. She has been a part of more than 145 movies, performing stunts in the air, underwater, on the ground, and more.
By the time she finished school, she had already worked as a stunt double in 40 movies. She recollects a few interesting experiences, including jumping off the 16th storey of a building when she was just 15 years old for the film Bhoot. In Hero: The Love Story of a Spy, as a double for Preity Zinta, she was part of a “big bomb blast sequence that has people drifting in a river towards Pakistan”.
Recently, Sanober shot a tricky sequence for Shamshera, where she had to dive from at least 15 feet to show an underwater perspective. Read her story here.
Amazon’s first woman truck driver is breaking many stereotypes
Thirty-five-year-old Joycy Lyngdoh from Meghalaya, the first female truck driver with Amazon’s trucking partner in India, is redefining stereotypical gender roles. A seasoned professional with over six years of driving experience, Joycy took to truck driving to earn a living, and this has motivated many other female drivers in her community to turn their love for driving into a profession.
“I love being out on the road, travelling to different places, and meeting new people. This opportunity inspired me to pursue my passion for living a self-sufficient life. My advice to women who want to pursue driving as a profession is that if you believe in yourself, new opportunities will open for you,” she tells HerStory. This is her story.
How biologist Purnima Devi Burman has rallied a Hargila Army of 10,000 women
In 2007, when Purnima Devi Barman embarked on her PhD on the greater adjutant stork, little did she know that she would soon spark a mass movement. It would not just save the bird from extinction, but rally thousands of women to form an Hargila Army of conservationists, change mindsets, and provide livelihoods.
The greater adjutant stork, present only in India and Cambodia, is limited to a few pockets in Assam and Bihar. A huge bird, standing tall at 145-150 cm, it is a scavenger, and therefore reviled and considered as ‘filthy’ in the villages.
She rallied women in different villages that soon became a mass social movement and a Hargila Army that now has more than 10,000 women in its fold, all active conservationists, empowered to make a difference. Read all about this conservationist here.
Edited by Kanishk Singh