Manasi Pradhan: A Pioneer in Women’s Empowerment and Advocacy
Manasi Pradhan, a name synonymous with courage, determination, and empowerment, is a distinguished Indian women’s rights activist and author. Born on October 4, 1962, in the remote village of Ayatapur in the Khordha district of Odisha, she has lived a remarkable life that serves as an inspiration to countless individuals in India and beyond.
A Modest Beginning
Manasi Pradhan’s journey commenced in a family with limited means, being the eldest of two daughters and a son born to Hemalata Pradhan and Godabarish Pradhan. In the rural landscape of Banapur, where she grew up, female education faced significant societal barriers, and girls were often discouraged from pursuing higher studies.
Undeterred by these challenges, Manasi Pradhan demonstrated unwavering determination to overcome these limitations and pursue education. Her journey involved a daily trek of 15 kilometres through hilly terrains and swamps to reach the only high school in the region. Her tenacity resulted in her becoming the first woman from her village to pass the high school examination, a significant achievement that marked the inception of her extraordinary life.
Driven by her thirst for knowledge, Manasi Pradhan journeyed to Puri for her college education. Faced with limited resources and familial financial struggles, she took on work to support both her education and family. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Government Women’s College, Puri, and a Master of Arts in Odia literature from Utkal University. Her academic pursuits culminated with a Bachelor of Law from G.M. Law College, Puri.
Entrepreneurship and Activism
Following a brief period in government service and the banking sector, Manasi Pradhan embraced her true calling. In October 1983, at the age of 21, she initiated her entrepreneurial journey by establishing a printing business and a literary journal. Her unwavering commitment and hard work led to the exponential growth of her business, distinguishing her as one of the few successful women entrepreneurs of her time.
OYSS Women: Nurturing Future Leaders
In 1987, Pradhan founded OYSS Women, an organisation dedicated to empowering young girls to pursue higher education and emerge as future leaders in society. OYSS Women has played a pivotal role in organising leadership workshops, educational and vocational training camps, legal awareness programs, and self-defence training, nurturing thousands of young women to become leaders in their chosen fields.
The organisation’s pioneering contributions to women’s empowerment continue to be instrumental in fostering the development of future women leaders.
Honour for Women National Campaign: A Nationwide Movement
A significant milestone in Manasi Pradhan’s vision for women’s rights was achieved with the launch of the “Honour for Women National Campaign” in November 2009. This nationwide movement aimed to combat violence against women in India, igniting a collective effort to end gender-based violence.
The campaign employs a multifaceted approach, utilising mediums such as women’s rights stalls, festivals, meets, literature, audio-visual displays, and street plays to raise awareness about legal and institutional provisions addressing violence against women.
The Four-Point Charter of Demand
The Honour for Women National Campaign laid out a Four-Point Charter of Demand, inspiring amendments by several state governments across India. The charter calls for:
- Complete prohibition on the sale of liquor.
- Inclusion of self-defence training for women in the educational curriculum.
- Establishment of a special protection force for women’s security in every district.
- Creation of fast-track courts, special investigating and prosecuting wings for crimes against women in every district.
These demands underscore the urgent need for stringent measures to ensure the safety and well-being of women in India.
Recognition and Impact
Manasi Pradhan’s tireless efforts in women’s empowerment and her relentless advocacy against violence have garnered national and international recognition. Her influence spans various sectors, earning her accolades from esteemed organisations and publications.
In 2014, Manasi Pradhan received the prestigious Rani Laskhmibai Stree Shakti Puraskar from the President of India, a testament to her dedication to the cause of women’s rights. Additionally, she won the ‘Outstanding Women Award’ in 2011, alongside Mary Prema Pierick, the global head of the Missionaries of Charity.
Internationally, in 2016, the New York-based Bustle included her among the “20 Most Inspiring Feminists Authors and Activists.” In 2017, the Los Angeles-based Welker Media Inc. named her among the “12 Most Powerful Feminist Change Makers.” Her global impact was further acknowledged in 2018 when the Oxford Union of the University of Oxford invited her to address the union.
A Life that Inspires
Manasi Pradhan’s life story embodies resilience, determination, and a profound commitment to making a difference in the lives of women. From a remote village to the forefront of the fight for women’s rights, her journey serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment.
In conclusion, Manasi Pradhan’s work and activism have left an indelible impact on women’s rights and gender equality. Her dedication to ending violence against women, coupled with her belief in empowering young girls to become leaders, stands as a testament to her enduring legacy. Manasi Pradhan’s life is an inspiration, showcasing that with determination, commitment, and the right values, an individual can contribute significantly to changing the world for the better.