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Women with a voice that is heard are truly powerful. These Indian women celebrities are speaking up for those who do not have a voice and making a difference.
In the past, they might have found it hard to directly do so because of their position in society but they were still doing it indirectly. Even mythological women have been catalysts for huge events to take place in epics. For instance, if Draupadi had not adamantly demanded justice for herself, then the fight for righteousness would not have taken place in the Mahabharat.
For years, feminism has fought to bring women to the forefronts of their fights. Women celebrities in particular have been using their widespread reach and lending their voices to very important causes. Here is a list of 15 Indian women celebrities who are using their popularity for good causes:
Actress Shabana Azmi has been a committed social activist despite critics accusing her activism of being a publicity gimmick. She has voiced her opinions on various issues and has actively supported child survival and fighting AIDS and injustice in real life. In an interview with Women’s Web she says, “I have been working with women for so long that I have noticed that although it takes a little more time to mobilise women, once you mobilise them, they become true leaders because their lives are directly affected. And when they become front line workers, they don’t just do it as a job but they do it because they actually want change to happen.”
A long-time supporter of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), Shilpa Shetty has done difficult things to support this campaign, including crouching in a cage in a tiger costume for a photoshoot to portray the pain that animals go through. She has also lent her voice to tackling the problem of HIV-AIDS in India; she portrayed a HIV-positive sufferer in her film Phil Milenge which she believed would bring about a social awareness about AIDS in India. She is also using her reputation to push fitness. We must take pride in her participation and achievements in so many different causes, all the while being an actress, businesswoman, producer, model, and writer.
An actress, model and beauty queen who won the Femina Miss India Universe contest in 1994 and was later crowned Miss Universe 1994, Sushmita Sen was also the recipient of a Mother Teresa Award in 2013 for her social work. In her own words, “We are associated with RNAF (Rouble Nagi Art Foundation) and it does not depend only on big charities. Educating and enhancing the artistic calibre of children is our priority. If a child is suffering from a disease like cancer, we donate whatever we can.” Sushmita Sen is extremely well-know for her charity work and she is the perfect example of beauty with brains and a heart!
The winner of Miss World 1994 and fellow contestant of Sushmita Sen in Femina Miss India in 1994, actress Aishwarya Rai is one of the most popular and influential celebrities in India. And she uses her status for good, no doubt.
In early 2005, she performed with other Bollywood stars at the HELP! Telethon Concert to raise money for victims of the 2004 tsunami earthquake. She, along with other members of the Bachchan family, laid the foundation of a special school for underprivileged girls. She also supports PETA and tried to educate people about eye donation by pledging to donate her eyes to the Eye Bank Association of India. These are just a few of things that Aishwarya Rai does and has done for a good cause; there are many more that are just as praiseworthy.
Model, actress, producer, and beauty queen are not the only things she is. Dia Mirza works for so many social causes that they would warrant an entire article just on them. To name a few, she has been associated with Cancer Patients Aid Association, Spastics Society of India, prevention of female foeticide, and PETA. She has also publicly communicated her support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan along with Aamir Khan and has worked extensively with the government of Andhra Pradesh to increase awareness about HIV. It is incredible to have someone who works towards society’s progress in an uncountable number of ways!
Deepika Padukone is both critically and commercially successful and she uses her celebrity status to be outspoken about issues that bother her. She strongly advocates feminism and mental health awareness which are both taboo topics in India. She has spoken openly about her personal experience with overcoming depression, which helped break some of the prejudice against mental health patients. To create more awareness on mental health in India, she formed The Live Love Laugh Foundation. Her phenomenal work in the area of raising awareness on mental health in India has been very useful to many people. And for that, I am grateful.
Trisha Krishnan is a model and very popular actress who works mainly in South Indian films. She is also an ardent animal lover has been the Goodwill Ambassador of PETA when they organised the “Angel for Animals” campaign in 2010. She encouraged people to domesticate stray dogs and adopt homeless dogs instead of wishing for pedigreed foreign breeds. PETA sent Trisha an appreciation letter for this and her work in animal rescue. It’s great that we have someone so kind and compassionate who is using their influence to help those without a voice (animals).
Another popular actress and model from South India, Samantha has also been actively involved in philanthropy. She started the Pratyusha Support Foundation with the help of three doctor friends, to provide medical support for children and women. She provided the whole financial support for the programme. She conducted a fund raiser in 2013 to spread awareness of her foundation. The programme later also started fulfilling the wishes of children with life-threatening diseases. Her attempts go far beyond what she has to, to help other people is worth looking up to.
Tennis isn’t the only thing that professional athlete Sania Mirza created history in, she is also the first South Asian woman to be appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador by UN Women. Having become the UN Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia, she joined the campaign to end violence against girls and women. Always having broken stereotypes as a female sportsperson, it is fitting that Sania Mirza would lend her voice to this feminist cause.
A world-famous boxer who even had a biopic made about her life starring Priyanka Chopra, Mary Kom is definitely a force to be reckoned with – not just as a boxer but also as an activist. Mary Kom is an animal rights activist and a supporter of PETA. She has starred in an advertisement that called for the end of the use of elephants in circuses. She has also written to the education ministers of states and union territories all over India asking for PETA India’s human education campaign, Compassionate Citizen to be incorporated in official school curriculums.
She said, “One of the best ways to knock out cruelty to animals is to teach compassion to young people. Animals need us in their corner. With violence seemingly all around us, it is more important than ever that we teach lessons of respect and kindness in the classroom.”
Badminton player Saina Nehwal surprised French journalist Raphael Sachetat with how quickly she agreed to help his charity called Solibad. She reportedly said, “If it’s a charity, no problem. I’ll do whatever is required.” The charity was going to use badminton players to raise money for orphanages in Haiti, Kuala Lumpur, and Bali. Saina also told Solibad that it would be nice if they began an India programme. It’s awesome that we have a celebrity whose goodness shines through and who cares so much for those less privileged than her.
Known for being an accomplished Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer, Mallika Sarabhai is also an actress and most importantly, an activist. She has used film and television to further causes that she believes in. She has focused mainly on the empowerment of women and environmental consciousness. She co-directed ‘Women with Broken Wings’ and wrote the script for the play, ‘Unsuni’ to raise awareness amongst privileged students about the issues that the underprivileged face. She also wrote, produced, and performed Shakti: The Power of Women. She throws herself into all of these causes with the same passion that she has for dance and as a result, she succeeds in conveying the message to her audience.
Chithra is a popular playback singer who sings popular music as well as Indian classical and devotional music. She is really versatile, not only when it comes to singing but also when it comes to being a singer while also doing social work. She launched a fundraising organisation, Sneha Nandana, to raise funds to look after retired musicians who don’t have much of a career due to changes in the music industry. The fund was meant to help these musicians overcome financial obstacles and pay for treatment of their medical problems. With a successful singing career and her philanthropic work, Chithra is a huge inspiration for everyone.
Having worked as a costume designer and fashion stylist for over 300 films, Neeta Lulla has also been vocal about combating gender-based violence. She has used her designs to promote the cause. Her 2016 collection, “#SheIsMe” simultaneously expressed both resilience and gentleness in the face of abuse, and a dance recital speaking up against women’s abuse was included in the collections debut at Lakme Fashion Week. Neeta Lulla teaches us that social work and your career need not be two separate things, sometimes you can use your creativity to support a cause you believe in, through your work.
She won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. It became the biggest-selling novel by a non-expatriate Indian writer. Apart from being an author and essayist, Arundhati Roy also happens to be a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes. She has strongly and boldly expressed her controversial views on several issues that have landed her in a lot of trouble. People can troll her all they want but she stands up for what she believes in, and fights against injustice, which is what counts.
Furthermore, the fact that she is famous enough to cause controversies creates a dialogue on lots of issues which is always healthy even if you may disagree with her. For example, she supports the independence of Kashmir from India which some may deem unpatriotic, but maybe it’s good that she’s getting us to consider the other side that includes the horrors that Kashmiris face in the name of patriotism. Her courage to stand up for things that are so controversial is truly admirable, if only all of us were that brave…
Images source Wikicommons
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