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Women for Change

International Women’s Day has come and gone, but we at Indian Masterminds would continue- throughout this month- to delight our readers with the wonderful work our women bureaucrats have been doing in their respective jurisdictions. Whether it’s fighting social stigma, ensuring justice for everyone or making use of modern technology to enhance ease of living for common men and women, their work deserves a second look.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Challenging the stereotypes, battling social ills, putting meaning back into people’s lives- our women civil servants often go beyond the call of duty to do all this and much more. At times, renovating a small school building in a far-flung village becomes as important as making a big hospital operational. Or constructing a small road in the village becomes as crucial as making a big dam elsewhere.

Our women civil servants have been on the forefront of ushering on social changes. Today we salute five of them for their path-breaking work and achievements. Please take a look.

An IPS Officer, She Goes All Out for the Protection of Women and Children

IPS officer Ms Swati Lakra has taken several steps for the support and protection of women and children in Telangana. One such measure is `Bharosa Centre’, which comes to the aid of girls, women and children who have been the victims of rape and sexual abuse.

A 1995-batch officer, Ms. Lakra is posted as the Additional Director General of Police Women Safety in Telangana. Speaking with Indian Masterminds, Ms. Lakra explained how the `Bharosa Centre’ operates.

The concept behind Bharosa Center was established in May 2016 at Hyderabad, as a Society for Protection of Women and Children, with logistic help, funding and support from the Department of Women and Child Development, Telangana.

Ms. Lakra said, “This initiative is taken for girls, women and children who are victims of rape and child sexual abuse. After the crime is committed, the victim has to go the court, police station and hospital as per the procedures. All this is like re-victimization for them. Therefore, we thought if we had all these things under one roof, then the victim goes through the necessary legal processes in a good environment. This is how the concept of Bharosa Center came about and we started in Hyderabad initially. But it is now being replicated in all the districts of Telangana.”

Swati Lakra

Smart Move in a Smart City: A Welfare Initiative for Women and Lactating Mothers

Yet again, IAS officer Aditi Garg and the Indore Smart City have added another feather in their caps. This time it’s not about preserving Indore’s heritage or earning revenue from reducing carbon emission (as we reported earlier in Indian Masterminds), but for the first time a centre named ‘SHE-Kunj’ has been launched which aims at providing much needed convenience to women. With the help of this facility, women can now avail sanitation facility, separate feeding rooms, diaper & sanitary pad dispensing machines and other amenities at some of the most crowded places in Indore.

The initiative has been taken up at four locations: Palasia Women Police Station, Chappan Dukan (56 Shops), Vijay Nagar and Meghdoot Upvan, with the aim of providing a clean and safe environment for women where they can avail specialised and required amenities.

While speaking to Indian Masterminds, Ms. Aditi Garg discussed about the purpose and benefits of this novel idea. She said, “We have identified some areas in the city which are heavily crowded such as market places, bus stops, hospitals etc. and are coming up with ‘SHE-Kunj’ centres, which are a mix of women toilets and feeding centres.”

Aditi Garg

In Himachal Pradesh, this IPS Officer is teaching Women the `Natural’ Art of Self-Defence

In these times of rising crimes against women, an IPS officer has taken a different route to tackle such cases. This entails arming the women with, no not guns and revolvers, but with pepper sprays!

Ms Soumya Sambasivan, the IPS officer and the first female Superintendent of Police (SP) of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh is the one who has launched this campaign. The idea struck her when she was posted earlier in Sirmaur, and she went about implementing it in earnest.

Today, Ms Sambasivan has taught the simple but effective art of making pepper sprays to scores of women in Himachal Pradesh.

In Sirmaur, Ms. Sambasivan brought together a group of women and girls and taught them the way to make a pepper spray. This only required four ingredients: chilli powder, pepper powder, refined oil and acetone. As Ms Sambasivan told Indian Masterminds, “I have always believed that developing a defense mechanism in women can be the strongest tool for them in fighting off crimes like eve-teasing. Getting them physically trained is important, but its time consuming. Pepper sprays are already available in market and are used by women the world over. However, in rural areas women are not very much aware about this excellent weapon for self-defence. I think this should be in the must have list for all women, and they should carry it whenever they step out of their homes. Having a spray in their bags will boost their confident. And this is so effective; it normally blinds a person for half an hour or so. There is no long lasting or permanent damage to the victim”

Soumya Sambasivan

This IPS officer is leading fight against the atrocities on women and mob killings

While growing up in the beautiful mountains of Munnar, Kerala, Reema Rajeshwari only dreamt of the world just as beautiful. In her childhood, she used to be excited while reading the stories of IAS and IPS officers. At that time only she decided to crack this tough exam and get into civil services. After entering into IPS, she is now changing the face of policing through her small efforts. She is one of the few officers who go beyond their call of duty to revamp the society. She believes in restoring empathy and sensitivity towards the people and victim. The 2009 batch officer of Telangana cadre is currently the SP of Jogulamba Gadwal district.

Being a lady, Ms. Rajeshwari’s heart ached seeing the crime and atrocities against women. During her posting in Mahbubnagar, she rescued around 1200 child brides with the help of some NGOs. She also talked to religious leaders and villagers about the ill effects of child marriage. 

Her work for Devdasi or Joginis is also considered among some of the remarkable initiatives by any IPS officer. Though the state and central government has laws against such practices, still, it hasn’t been abolished completely. More than 2000 Joginis were present in Mahbubnagar alone. She rescued those women and helped them to get vocational training courses. She collaborated with Jan Shikshan Sansthan for this initiative. 

Reema Rajeshwari

Transforming Schools- That’s Where Her Heart Lies

Transforming traditional Government schools into modern, smart temples of learning was always the dream she nurtured. And once she became the IAS officer, with a posting in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka, there was no stopping for Ms Fouzia Taranum from implementing it in earnest.

It was the great American philosopher Henry David Thoreau- one of the heroes of Mahatma Gandhi- who had once remarked, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’’

In an exclusive interview with Indian Masterminds, Ms. Fouzia, at present Chief Executive Officer (CEO)  of Chikkaballapur Zilla Parishad, recounted how she was able to effect the transformation of schools under her jurisdiction. “Schools and Anganwadis for children,’’ she maintained, ” should be a space that imparts knowledge in such a way that children start loving going to schools.‘’

Fouzia Taranum


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