Navy to Wildlife Conservation: 5 Inspiring Women Beating Odds to Shape India’s Future

Navy to Wildlife Conservation: 5 Inspiring Women Beating Odds to Shape India’s Future

From facing a 15-hour storm on international waters, uplifting local communities to helping people lead a healthy lifestyle, here are five gritty and intelligent women winning battles

This article has been published in partnership with CII

Women of today are driving social, political and economic narrative of the country in all fields be it media, education, innovation, invention, technology or environment. They are not only entering male bastions and shattering stereotypes but also ensuring collective growth and development for all.

To celebrate the awe-inspiring work of such trailblazing women, the Confederation of Indian Industry-Indian Women Network (CII-IWN) is organising a leadership conclave in Kochi this year.

The two-day conclave (Jan 27-28) themed ‘Say Yes-Getting Women Ready for India@75’ will see a multitude of eminent speakers from the world of business, politics, media, and entertainment, among others.

Here is a list of some of the many distinguished speakers that will grace the event:

1) Sunita Dhairyam: Wildlife Conservationist


Once she returned to India in 1998 from the US, Sunita Dhairyam committed herself to the wildlife and local communities of Mangala village in Karnataka’s Bandipur area.

Sunita’s love for wildlife springs from her childhood spent in Zambia and other African countries. Her earliest stint in wildlife conservation was as a Manager in the Kabini River Lodge in 1984.

In Bandipur, she even worked as a wildlife artist to paint wildlife murals for the Karnataka Forest Department. Here, she lived in a mud house near the Bandipur National Park, with no electricity or water with the nearest phone being 25 kilometres away.

Thanks to her efforts, 15 villages in the area get free clinic service from Dr A R Pai, who she helped set up practice in 2000.

Through her organisation, Mariamma Charitable Trust, Sunita tackles deep-rooted issues like poverty, employment and education of children.

Using her artistic skills, Sunita crafts and sells wildlife-themed products like t-shirts, caps and jackets to tourists and the proceeds go to her trust.

2) Lieutenant Commander Shougrakpam Vijaya, NM:

Source: S W Thatte/Twitter

A recipient of Nari Shakti Puraskar, Lieutenant Commander (LT Cdr) Shougrakpam Vijaya, NM made history in 2015 as North-East’s first woman sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

She was a part of a six-member all-women crew that sailed across the world on INSV Tarini, a first by Indian sailors.

The team braved high tides, a 15-hour storm, torturous waves and freezing temperatures.

“We watched enormous waves break over the top of the boat and sweep across the deck. A blast of saltwater soaked me completely. I ducked as it fell on the ground. The water gushed inside our living space, soaking all our clothes in seawater. It was such a mess,” she recalled to News18.

The LT Cdr has received a VCN Commendation (Vice Chief of Naval Staff) and is a gold-medalist in the Indian Navy Sailing Championship (INSC) for the year 2015 and 2016 in women laser radial category.

Born and raised in the hills of Manipur, she grew up in a family of five. Her father served in the Manipur Rifles and mother was a school teacher. Being the only daughter, her parents had reservations about sending her outside Manipur for studies.

But the girl, who grew up watching Doordarshan programmes like Sea Hawk and Udaan, showed courage and convinced her parents. She completed her Masters in English Literature from Delhi University and subsequently joined the Indian Navy in 2012.

3) Shalini Saraswathi: Blade Runner, Adventure Enthusiast & Marathoner

Shalini Saraswathi, marathon runner and an avid blogger is proof that all one needs is a belief in oneself, undying determination and right attitude to win any battle.

After losing her baby and all four limbs to a rare bacterial infection in 2012, Shalini’s life came to a standstill. But the gritty woman defied multiple organ failure and a coma to find her new self.


Not one to lose either hope or the will to live, she turned toward fitness. She started with marathons. Focus, hard work and perseverance by her side, she even completed a 10k marathon in a record timing of 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Shalini maintains a balance between a full-time corporate job, her passion for blogging and her enthusiasm for fitness. She has shared her inspiring journey with multinational companies like Walmart, Biocon, TESCO and Deloitte.

Awards in her kitty include ‘Iconic Woman Award’ by the Ladies’ Wing of the IMC Chamber of Commerce, ‘Rashtriya Swayam Siddha Samman’ by the JSPL Group and the ‘Kittur Rani Chennamma Award’ by the Women and Child Development Department, Government of Karnataka.

4) V Gayathri: Founder of Gayathri’s Nutrisolutions


With stress, weight loss/gain, loss of appetite on the rise, the concept of healthy living is gaining prominence.

Providing a platform for people to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits, consultant dietitian, V Gayathri founded Nutrisolutions. The non-profit organisation gives free nutrition awareness classes and also offers one-to-one counselling sessions and chalks out diet plans for its customers.

Gayathri’s vast expertise and knowledge often finds her speaking in prestigious universities and campaigns as a public speaker and lecturer. The company has an international client base from across the globe.

An M.Phil in Food and Nutrition, Gayathri has several accolades to her name like National Quality Achievers award (2015). She has also been listed as one of the successful entrepreneurs in Kerala by HEF Souvenir.

5) Neharika Vohra: Chair, Centre for Innovation & Incubation Entrepreneurship Initiatives

Source: IIM Ahmedabad/Facebook

Neharika Vohra is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at IIM Ahmedabad.

A PhD holder in Social Psychology from the University of Manitoba in Canada, she has published more than 50 research papers in national and international journals and authored 3 books.

She actively works in competence building and organisational behaviour of executives in various sectors and across countries. Her area of expertise includes women leadership, entrepreneurship, change management and education.

Presently, she heads the Centre for Innovation and Incubation in Entrepreneurship Initiatives at IIM-Ahemdabad.

Apart from these amazing delegates, The Better India founders, Anuradha Kedia and Dhimant Parekh will share their journey on setting up India’s largest positive media brand.

Here’s a full list of speakers.Here’s a full list of speakers.

Click here to register for this eventClick here to register for this event

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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