What began in 1908 as a day to honour the female garment workers in the United States who went on strike to protest against terrible working conditions, Women’s Day has spread across the globe in celebration of women who crossed boundaries and defied all odds to stand up for their beliefs.
So on this year’s Women’s Day, we remember some of the most inspiring Odia women, from past and present, who brought laurels to our state. So in no particular order:
Born in Jajpur, Dutee Chand rose from poverty to become a sprinting sensation. Chand clinched Silver in the 100m event at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, thus becoming the first Indian to bag a medal in that category since 1998.
Dr. Pratibha Ray is a Padma Shri winner and one of the most eminent writers in Odia literary history. A staunch supporter of women’s rights, Dr. Ray became the first woman to win the prestigious Moortidevi award in 1991 for her novel Yajnaseni. Other awards under her belt are the Odisha Sahitya Academy award and the illustrious Jnanpith Award.
Nandini Sathpathy is the only female chief minister that Odisha has ever had. Known as the ‘Iron Lady of Odisha’, Satpathy was one of the pioneering female politicians in post-independence India. She was also an exemplary literary figure, having won the Sahitya Bharati Samman Award for her contributions to Odia literature in 1998. She translated Taslima Nasreen’s magnum opus Lajja into Odia.
A relentless social activist, Tulasi Munda was born into a poor tribal family just a month before India’s independence. Despite not receiving any formal education, Munda devoted her life to educating poor children in her efforts to eradicate poverty. She established the ‘Adivasi Vikash Samiti School’ in her village in Serenda. In her 71 years, she has educated over 20,000 children, receiving the Padma Shri award in the process.
Sanjukta Panigrahi was a classical dancer and the primordial exponent for excellence in Odissi. A recipient of the Padma Shri award in 1975, Panigrahi was also bestowed with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award the following year.