For some reason the male species are convinced that they are in charge. Like Alexander the not so Great who conquered much of the world. But when it came to invading India, it was the Army of Women who stopped him in his tracks. I am not going too far back to prove my point that men have a great deal of catching up to do. For us women have left them far back in time and places, which are best forgotten. This is the Age of Enlightenment; it’s a time of Great Spiritual Development and an era of Morality like the world has not seen before.
In all these spheres, women are in the forefront and in four short years, 2020 – there will be more women legislators in the world than men, but I just want to go back to around 130 years to prove the mettle of women. Specifically, I am going to highlight Indian women because I am one and I equate with all women of all nations.
Here is a line up of Indian women scientists: Anandibai Joshee (1865 – 1887)This list has to start with a mention of Anandibai Joshee – she along with Kadambini Ganguly was one of the first Indian women doctors qualified to practice western medicine. Dr. Joshee’s short life was full of hardships; her family used to be rich The death of her newborn son due to inadequate medical care is what inspired her to become a physician. She was also encouraged by her husband to study medicine abroad. Dr. Joshee, MD was in the class of 1886 at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (which was the first women’s medical program in the world). On her return to India, she was appointed as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital in the princely state of Kolhapur.
2. Janaki Ammal (1897-1984) Janaki Ammal studied Botany. She served as the Director-General of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). She also did work on medically important and economically valuable plants.
3. Kamala Sohonie (1912–1998) –Dr. Sohonie was the first Indian woman to get a Ph.D in a scientific discipline. While at Cambridge, she found that every cell of a plant tissue contained the enzyme ‘cytochrome C’ which was involved in the oxidation of all plant cells. The subjects of her research were often on food items consumed by the poorest people.
4. Anna Mani (1918-2001)-Anna Mani was an Indian physicist and meteorologist. She also worked as meteorologist and retired as the Deputy Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). She published several research papers and made significant contributions in the field of meteorological instrumentation.
5. Asima Chatterjee (1917 – 2006)Asima Chatterjee was an Indian chemist noted for her work in the fields of organic chemistry and chemicals derived from plants. Her most notable work includes research on vinca alkaloids (derived from the periwinkle that is known for its anti-cancer properties), and the development of anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs. She also authored a considerable volume of work on medicinal plants of the Indian subcontinent.
6. Rajeshwari Chatterjee (1922-2010) – Rajeshwari Chatterjee was the first woman engineer from Karnataka. In 1946, she was given a scholarship by the (then) Govt of Delhi to study abroad, and studied at the University of Michigan where she obtained her Master’s degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering. After obtaining a Ph.D degree, she returned to India and joined the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering at IISc as a faculty member where she along with her husband set up a microwave research laboratory where they did pioneering work on Microwave Engineering.
7. Darshan Ranganathan (1941 –2001) – She was an organic chemist from India who was known for her work in bio-organic chemistry, including “pioneering work in protein folding” and “supramolecular assemblies. After her death from breast cancer in 2001, her husband instituted the biennial “Professor Darshan Ranganathan Memorial Lecture”, which is to be “delivered by a woman scientist who has made outstanding contributions in any field of Science and Technology”.
8. Maharani Chakravorty (b. 1937) – Maharani Chakravorty is a molecular biologist. She organized the first laboratory course on recombinant DNA techniques in Asia and the Far East in 1981. After her post-doctoral studies in the USA, she returned to the Bose Institute in Kolkata. Among her many accolades, she also received the Professor Darshan Ranganathan Memorial Award in 2007.
9. Charusita Chakravarty (b. 1964) – Charusita Chakravarty was a professor of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi since 1999. Born in the USA, she relinquished her U.S. citizenship and now works in India. She has won several awards for her work. She is an Associate Member of the Centre for Computational Material Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore.
10. Mangala Narlikar – Few female maths researchers in India, Mangala Narlikar describes herself as a part-time scientist. She finished a Ph.D. in mathematics 16 years after she got married, putting household responsibilities before her career. She has taught at University of Mumbai and University of Pune and finds joy in making mathematics interesting for students who dread the subject. Then there was Kalpana Chawla, the First Indian woman in Space, Mrs Sunitha Williams who was the first person to live in the International Space Station for six months. And all she took with her was a miniature statue of Lord Ganesha to protect her.
Let us look at business, the top five Indian business women in India have assets of at least 10 Billion United States Dollars, Savitri Jindal, Indu Jain, Anu Aga, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Shobhana Bhartia. Then of course there Arunima Sinha who climbed Mount Everest in 17 hours flat and became the first person to conquer this summit having just ONE leg. In Africa the trend continues, most women who are among the richest did not inherit money from their families, they made it on their own. Today in Africa there are more women Chief Executive Officers of major companies than at any other time before.
There are more women in public office than in the history of the dark continent, there are more professional, artisans and skilled women who are servicing countries beyond their respective borders.
The head of the African Union is a woman. What really drives the point home is that Indian women, yes Indian women own 15% of the world’s gold – that’s more than what the United States got, the United Kingdom and France. I am not telling the world just how well women are doing. I am here to tell men to start making progress. To get rid of their prejudices, their jealousies and their misconceptions of their girls children, their sisters, mothers, grandmothers, their respective wives.
The major problems in the way forward to a better world are the way men conduct business. Some of them create wars, others use evil tactics and the greed, which is displayed, has resulted in our world being polluted, economies ruined and they have even blown a hole in the sky. I call on every man to catch up and be in step with the women of the world. Or else they will be left out of the decision making which drafts a new route to prosperity and success.
Rita Abraham is with SA Insurance Brokers from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa