Globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. According to the recent reports of 2022, the number of complaints filed with the National Commission for women has reached 17,348. The right to live with dignity saw the most complaints with 5593, followed by 3792 complaints under the Protection of Women against domestic violence. These numbers have further intensified since the pandemic because of money & security worries in the family, isolation with partners & easy access to women in the house due to movement restrictions & deserted public places. While the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading during 2020-22, there was a shadow pandemic that was growing amidst the life of women. According to the report by UN Women, globally, 243 million women & girls aged 15-49 years have experienced sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner during the past year.
It is not enough to establish laws for the protection of women from domestic violence & abuse, but a greater effort is required to sensitize the community as a whole towards gender-based violence & self-defence. Dr. Keerthi Bollineni, herself being a survivor of domestic violence, took this initiative to restore hope in the lives of women who are traumatized emotionally, physically as well as financially in this patriarchal society. Through her Vasavya Mahila Mandal (VMM), she has been actively working toward women’s protection & empowerment through several programs at the ground level. In 2017, VMM joined hands with the Vijaywada police in Andhra Pradesh and initiated a community-based intervention, “Mahila Mitra”, for sensitizing around 3700 police force in 21 police stations as well as 200+ women & men towards gender-based violence, abuse as well as the importance of respecting the opposite gender. Around 5-10% people in this initiative are men, thereby valuing gender inclusion which is the need of the hour to empower men to be the change-makers.
Life became a vacuum for Dr. Keerthi when she lost her husband at the young age of 32 years (in 1987). 2 years post this incident, she lost her only daughter in 1989. As a widow, she also had to face a lot of shame and guilt due to social ostracism & discriminatory practices because of which she was never invited to social functions. As a single woman at a young age, she also had to face a lot of challenges from men for sexual advances and abuse. During her 40s, she had her second marriage which was also full of challenges for her as she had to deal with severe financial, emotional, and sexual violence continuously for seven years, after which she got divorced and put a full stop to her life of nightmares.
She did not give up and created a life of purpose for herself by empowering other women who are victims of domestic violence & abuse by counselling, mentoring & empowering them at VMM.
The journey of helping women has never been easy for her even after setting up VMM. Challenges slide in the form of violent attacks & threats from rowdy men, political pressure as well as the threat from the family whose daughter-in-law or wife is taking shelter at VMM. But through support from police & 24*7 surveillance, the security of women & the institution is being managed.
There have been several instances of men creating noises, and sending letters of threat & warnings at the institution which has never ceased the spirit of VMM from protecting women’s dignity & rights.
During the span between 01st April 2018 through 31st March 2020, more than 4 lakh RTI cases were filed by VMM related to the Hindu Marriage Act, Protection of Women from Domestic violence, Criminal Procedure Code, etc. Recently, with their efforts, a man who killed his wife after domestic violence has been ordered 20 years of imprisonment & VMM is now fighting the case for a guardianship of the children.
Over 7000+ eve teasers have also been counselled & mentored along with their families to bring about a positive transformation. This initiative was also studied by the University of Edinburgh.
VMM has created change-makers who are working at the community level to help women report cases of domestic violence or abuse & get the required training & mentoring.
During Covid, they also created their own web-based MIS in order to maintain data accuracy with transparency and accountability and is now used by a team of 100+ volunteers.
Not just restoring hope in the lives of women, but Dr. Keerthi is committed to restoring sight in the lives of the blind through her community-based eye bank titled after her daughter’s name, ‘Swetcha’ as after the death of her daughter, she donated her eyes to two congenitally blind and her daughter is symbolically now alive in 894 people by giving them a sight to see the world and have a dignified productive life.
Key Awards & Recognitions:
FORMER CHAIRPERSON, THERMAX
Ms. Anu Aga is the former Chairpersonof one of India’s leading business houses –Thermax India. Since October 2004, she is serving as Director on the Thermax Board. After retiring from Thermax she took to social workand in 2010 was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.She is also the Chairperson of Teach For India.She was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Indian Parliament by the Indian presidentin 2012. Earlier, she was a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
CHAIRPERSON, NARAYANA HEALTH
Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty is the chairman and founder of Narayana Healthand a cardiac surgeon with over34 years of experience. He initiated the concept of micro health insurance schemesin Karnataka, which eventually led to the Karnataka government implementing ‘Yeshasvini’, a micro health insurance scheme forrural farmers. He was a member of the National Innovation Council set up by the Government of India to discuss, analyse and help implement strategies for inclusive innovation in India and prepare a roadmap for innovation 2010-2020. He is the recipient ofa number of awards and honours, most noteworthy being Padma Shri and Padma Bhushanin 2003 and 2012 respectively, conferred by the Government of India.
Mr. Harsh C. Mariwala leads Marico as its chairman. Over the last threedecades, he has transformed a traditional commodity-driven business into a leading consumer products companyin the beauty and wellness space. Marico markets leading brands such as Parachute, Saffola, Mediker, Revive, Setwet, and Livon among others. From a turnover of INR 50 lakhs in 1971, Marico’s products and services in hair care, skin care and healthy foods generated a turnover of about INR 6,300 crores during 2017-18. Today,one out of three Indians is a Marico consumer.
FORMER CHAIRPERSON, ISRO
Dr. Radhakrishnan is former chairman of Indian National Space Organisation (ISRO). Starting his career as an Avionics Engineer in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, he held several decisive positions in ISRO in the domains of space launch systems, space applications and space programme management. He is a Fellow of Indian National Academy of Science (FNASc), Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering (FNAE); Honorary Life Fellowof The Institution of Engineers, India; Honorary Fellow of The Institution of Electrical and Telecommunication Engineers, India; and Member of International Academy of Astronautics.
Mr. Kiran Karnik is the Chairperson of Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi and HelpAge India, and is also involved with a number of other not-for-profit organizations in the fields of education and development. Earlier, he was Chairperson of Oxfam India (2004-19), and President India Habitat Centre (2006-18). He was a Director on the Board of Reserve Bank of India (2011-15), and now chairs its IT subsidiary, Reserve Bank IT Pvt. Ltd. He is widely recognized for his work in the IT sector, as President NASSCOM from 2001 to 2008. He has had the unique experience of straddling the diverse spheres of government, business and civil society with equal comfort and accomplishment. He was a member of the National Innovation Council set up by the Government of India to discuss, analyse and help implement strategies for inclusive innovation in India and prepare a Roadmap for Innovation 2010-2020. He was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri in 2007.
Ms. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is Chairperson of Biocon since its inception, a first-generation entrepreneur and global business leader with over fourdecades of experience in biotechnology. Fueled by her passion, she started her biotech journey in 1978 from her garage in India. Today, that journey is changing lives for the better across the globe. She is regarded as an unconventional thinker with many firsts to her credit. Under her aegis, Biocon delivers on the promise of making medicines accessible and affordable to millions of patients worldwide.She was also a member of the National Innovation Council set up by the Government of India to discuss, analyse and help implement strategies for inclusive innovation in India and prepare a Roadmap for Innovation 2010-2020. She has received the Padma Shri (1989), Padma Bhushan (2005), Knight of the National Order of the French Legionof Honour (2016), Othmer Gold Medal (2014)and Order of Australia (2020).
FORMER DIRECTOR GENERAL, ICMR
Dr.Nirmal K. Ganguly is Advisor, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute and President, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research in India. He is a former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Dr.Ganguly has published numerous papers and guided doctoral projects. His major research areas are tropical diseases, cardiovascular diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. He is a fellow of several institutions, including the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, Canada. He has won numerous national and international awards, including the prestigious Padma Bhushanaward from the Government of India.
CO-FOUNDER, SWADES FOUNDATION
Mr. Ronnie Screwvala is a first generation entrepreneur who started his journey by introducing India to multi-channelTV viewing, by launching the first cable TV network in the country. From there, he went on to build a media and entertainment conglomerate spanning television, motion pictures, broadcasting, games and digital, that he listed in 2005 for a market cap of $55 million and that The Walt Disney Company bought in 2012 for an enterprise value of $1.4 billion.Ronnie puts a great deal of emphasis on social welfare. He founded the SwadesFoundation with the plan to impact one million people in rural Maharashtra in five years, with a clear exit/empowerment strategy from those villages, and building a model for others to follow.
FORMER DIRECTOR GENERAL, CSIR
Dr. Shekhar Mande is the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India. He is one of India’s leading experts in DNAfingerprinting and diagnostics. As Director of the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), an autonomous Institute of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, Dr. Mande oversaw the launch of the Indian Human Microbiome Initiative in the Northeast.His laboratory at NCCS has been involved in research on the structural characterisation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteins and the computational analysis of genome-wide protein: protein interactions.In 2005, he was awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology –the most prestigious science award in India –in the category of Biological Sciences.
FOUNDER & CH EDITOR, YOURSTORY
Ms. Shradha Sharma is the Founder and Chief Editor of YourStory, which she founded in 2008with the aim of championing the untold stories of entrepreneurship in India.Shradha lives her life in stories and believes thatevery story is uniqueand every story matters. Armed with degrees from St. Stephens College, Delhi and MICA, Ahmedabad, prior to founding YourStory,Shradha worked with Times of India and CNBC TV18. In 2015, she was selected in the list of 500 LinkedIn Influencers across the world. In 2015, she received the L’Oreal Paris Femina Award for Online Influence.
VICE CHAIRPERSON, PIRAMAL GROUP
Dr. Swati Piramal is Vice Chairperson, PiramalGroup, a global business conglomerate with diverse interests in pharma, financial services, healthcare information management, real estate and glass packaging. She is amongst India’s leading scientists and industrialists whose contributions in innovations, new medicines and public health services have touched many lives. Over the last three decades, Dr. Piramal’s work has been focused on the prevention of chronic diseases includingdiabetes, arthritis and heart ailments. Having led a team of scientists, Dr. Piramal has significantly contributed in the field of discovery research. Under her leadership, Piramal Group has been granted over 200 patents in medicine and a library of microbacteria, plants and fungi.
TRUSTEE, ANJANI MASHELKAR FOUNDATION
Sushil Borde heads innovation at Reliance and spearheads strategic initiatives in the Chairman’s office of Reliance Industries Limited, India’s largest private sector firm.
Sushil heads the Anjani Mashelkar Foundation, established by Dr R A Mashelkar, one of India’s legendary innovation leaders. The foundation accelerates disruptive, high-tech, ultra-affordable innovations for transformative impact.
Sushil has also led many other initiatives for Reliance including Mumbai Indians, a cricket franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL). He was also part of the founding teams of Reliance Foundation and Jio Institute (Reliance’s University in India)
Sushil has spent 7 years in South Africa where he led the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy for the country. Under this programme, he spearheaded an investment agency which deployed public funds in technology programmes to make the South African manufacturing sector globally competitive.
Sushil has also helped MIT, Boston to set up the Fab Foundation in the capacity of its President. The Fab Foundation deploys Fab Labs, a rapid product prototyping set up which allows non-technical people solve local problems through new product development. The mission of the Foundation is ‘Invention as Aid’.
Sushil’s academics include Mechanical Engineering and MBA degrees.