Woman: A Full Circle of Power to Create, Nurture, and Transform

It was the first day when I stepped in my host organization with no end of verve and determination to bring change in myself and the community.

“Wo mere zindagi ka sab se khushi ka din tha jab mene apne shauhar se talak liya.”
(It was the happiest day of my life when I got divorce from my husband.)

Women Expressing their thoughts on women empowerment.

Sultana Begum after 40 years of constant affliction and oppression got divorced from her husband. I could witness her tears and shimmery smile while unfolding her feelings as if a bird got unchained and flew from the cage. In lending my ears to the stories of other women affliction and male domination, I got the picture of how people are discussing women empowerment but the scenario has not been changed significantly till now because of people’s perception towards women and the women’s towards themselves too.

Women are often ignored of how our well-oiled structures of patriarchy function within families and communities at a large level and result in their oppression and discrimination. But this very ignorance has generated a counter-intuitive process of diving deep into individual experiences, and unpacking patriarchy through them. It help few women in budding up a new perspective, a feminist consciousness, and their abilities to cope, counter, and resolve issues they face in their lives. While there are many women who remain the same and continue to strangulate the neck of their freedom and are stuck in a complex web of male domination.

What we see today is not ignorance; it is a stubborn commitment to patriarchy. And at the same time, it is far more complex than just that. It has taken many decades of societal work to replace the values of patriarchy with values of empowerment, and expose the numerous fault lines in our society. [1]

Owing to this belief, I decided to pen down some empowering stories of women who fall, break, rise to find courage and redeem their dreams by realizing their own worth and potential. So they could gain a sense of empowerment in their own actions/stories and take a lead to empower others like them. For, I interviewed women who reside in slums of Hyderabad and whose individual lives wove together in one incredible story – a story of challenges and triumph over them. This case story booklet consists the life stories of Muslim women holding no leadership position in the slums of Hyderabad. The women emerged from their gendered or ethnic oppression as pathfinders with strong ambition to further their education and careers. Using strategies that entailed the support of male family members, they pushed culturally acceptable boundaries without creating destructive conflicts.

“The Unsung Heroes” contains the story of seven women from marginalized sections of the society, each on a challenging path. Each woman, through their positive vision, significantly altered their life and environment they are surviving in. For each of these women there was a kairotic moment, a fork in the road, when they are summoned by the power greater than themselves to take steps that changed the conventional course of their lives and altered society. Once summoned, each woman realized that there was no turning back, no matter how troublesome the path. Telling their stories they reflect back to encourage and empower the women to have the courage to trust their instinct and intuition, the vehicle through which the higher power speaks.

Let’s look at some examples of how each woman grew and narrates self-empowerment and social change in “traditional” societies.

Cover Page of ‘The Unsung Heroes’

The Unsung Heroes: Who fall, Break and Rise to Find Courage and Redeem their Dreams



Iyengar, Sushma. “The Development Discourse in India neglects women.” March 07, 2019. India Development Review. https://idronline.org/the-development-discourse-in-india-neglects-women/?gclid=CjwKCAjwmMX4BRAAEiwA-zM4JlOiOq0QjojzcL6l1Pmtr8IFnsQc5SaL1wVW8hr5SXIzNBZpTitdMhoCwC4QAvD_BwE

Mantasha is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with SAFA in Hyderabad, Telangana. For her Fellowship project, she is designing a communication strategy for engaging illiterate and semi-literate women and children at skills training centers and for publicizing program impact externally. Born and raised in a small district in western Uttar Pradesh, Mantasha pursued her education from Aligarh Muslim University. She graduated in English Literature in 2015, pursued a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2016, and completed her Master’s in Social Work in 2018. All through her academic pursuits, Mantasha weaved a dream of playing a part in the development sector. She began her career in Buildyourself Sewa Sanstha as project coordinator to work on skill development of youth and handicraft artisans in Moradabad. During her graduation, she spent a year to work as block coordinator in Nirbal Samaj Kalyan Parishad in Aligarh, focusing on education, health, and family welfare. She interned with Digital Empowerment Foundation in New Delhi, offering digital literacy to children in slum areas. Mantasha strongly believes in the power of storytelling and the capacity of a person to share their own to bring change and also draw inspiration from the stories of others. Owing to this belief, she particularly gets pleasure from creative works like composing poetry, writing quotes and short stories, painting and sketching, and art and craft works in her leisure time. She also enjoys learning new skills through virtual courses. Through the AIF Clinton Fellowship, Mantasha is tremendously excited to foster her experience and knowledge in the development sector. For her, this Fellowship would act as an incubator where she can implement her ideas and expand her learning.

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