~ Text and Photos by Priya Tripathy
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we’d like to share the stories of five women who have been striving to make tourism more responsible in India. They are the angels who have been inspiring us with their dedication and perseverance for creating and maintaining a world that is wonderful to all.
The Founder of Dastkar hardly ever interacts with the media. Even when she does, she uses the platform to highlight the stories of Indian artisans and craftsmen some of who are struggling to cope with the 21st century. India was once the hub of handicrafts and textile but over the centuries and the dawn of industrialization and beyond, the demand for indigenous produce and handicrafts saw a decline.
Since its inception, Dastkar has been working towards promoting fair trade and sustainability of craftsmen in the country.
She left her life in Europe to become the “Garbage Girl” of the Himalayas. Jodie Underhill, of Waste Warriors, was so affected by the rampant littering across the northern Himalayas that she decided to stay back and clean it all up. “When I witnessed how severe India’s garbage problem is, it completely broke my heart. I also realized then that I’d found my life’s mission. I love a challenge and I’ve picked up lots of garbage whilst on my travels even before coming to India,” she says.
Despite running out of funds and having to literally travel from door to door to keep the campaign going, she refuses to give up. “This project is what made me fall in love with India and I don’t want it to end.”
The young and dynamic founder of Planet Abled is no less than a star. A much-needed one for India. “My personal travel experiences as a daughter of parents with disabilities led to the inception of Planet Abled. My father is visually impaired and mother is orthopedically challenged, but we all are fond of traveling,” she said in an interview.
She believes that “travel is not a privilege but a basic human right.”
PURNIMA DEVI BARMAN
Associated with Aranyak, a non-profit organization that has been working towards environment issues and gender equality in the northeastern part of India, as an environmentalist – Purnima Devi Barman also heads the Hargila Army – an army of women who are the guardians of the Hargila (Greater Adjutant Stork). “The villagers did not want to see the birds in their area. They would think that as a carnivorous bird, it would bring carcass and other rotten stuff. Thus they would cut the trees where these birds used to build nests. But after pro-longed efforts, thankfully, now they have realized the importance of it,” Barman had said. With her army, Barman has been able to save the species from near extinction.
She is truly one-of-a-kind! Shaista Ambar is the founder of the first all-women’s mosque in India. And she did not stop at that. She ensured that the mosque is fully solar-powered. The mosque in Lucknow was founded in 1997 and has gone completely solar last month. A strong voice for gender equality as well as against climate change, this is one woman who should meet when you visit the otherwise patriarchal northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India.