Manasi Pradhan, a name that resonates with courage, determination, and empowerment, is a renowned Indian women's rights activist and author. Born on October 4, 1962, in the remote village of Ayatapur in the Khordha district of Odisha, she has led a remarkable life that has inspired countless individuals in India and beyond.
Manasi Pradhan's journey began in a family of limited means. She was the eldest of two daughters and a son, born to Hemalata Pradhan and Godabarish Pradhan. Her father was a farmer, and her mother a housewife. In the rural landscape of Banapur, where she grew up, female education was considered a significant taboo, and girls were often discouraged from pursuing higher studies.
Despite these odds, Manasi Pradhan displayed an unwavering determination to break free from these limitations and receive an education. Her journey involved walking a staggering 15 kilometres daily, traversing hilly terrains and swamps, to reach the only high school in the region. Her relentless pursuit culminated in her becoming the first woman from her village to pass the high school examination, a significant achievement that marked the beginning of her extraordinary life.
Her thirst for knowledge propelled her to Puri for her college education. With limited resources and the financial struggles her family faced, she had to take on work to support her education and her family. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Government Women's College, Puri, and a Master of Arts in Odia literature from Utkal University. Her academic journey culminated with a Bachelor of Laws from G.M. Law College, Puri.
After a brief stint in government service and the banking sector, Manasi Pradhan decided to follow her true calling. In October 1983, at the young age of 21, she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey by establishing a printing business and a literary journal. Her unwavering commitment and hard work saw her business grow exponentially, setting her apart as one of the few successful women entrepreneurs of her time.
In 1987, Pradhan founded OYSS Women, an organisation aimed at empowering young girls to achieve higher education and become future leaders in society. OYSS Women has been instrumental in organising leadership workshops, educational and vocational training camps, legal awareness programs, and self-defence training, nurturing thousands of young women to become leaders in their chosen fields.
The organisation has made pioneering contributions to women's empowerment and continues to play a crucial role in nurturing future women leaders.
Manasi Pradhan's vision and commitment to women's rights reached a significant milestone with the launch of the "Honour for Women National Campaign" in November 2009. This nationwide movement was initiated to combat violence against women in India, galvanising the nation and sparking a collective effort to end gender-based violence.
The campaign employs a multifaceted approach to address the issue of violence against women. It utilises various mediums, such as women's rights stalls, festivals, meets, literature, audio-visual displays, and street plays, to raise awareness about legal and institutional provisions to combat violence against women.
In addition, the campaign exerts pressure on the state by mobilising public opinion and engaging in sustained advocacy for institutional reforms and corrective measures to combat violence against women.
The Honour for Women National Campaign has laid out a Four-Point Charter of Demand, which has been pivotal in inspiring amendments by several state governments across India. This charter includes:
Complete prohibition on the sale of liquor.
Self-defence training for women as part of the educational curriculum.
A special protection force for women's security in every district.
Fast-track courts and special investigating and prosecuting wings for crimes against women in every district.
These demands reflect the pressing need for stringent measures to ensure the safety and well-being of women in India.
Manasi Pradhan's contributions to women's empowerment and her relentless efforts to combat violence against women have earned her national and international recognition. Her influence extends across various sectors, and she has been featured by esteemed organisations and publications.
In 2014, Manasi Pradhan received the prestigious Rani Laskhmibai Stree Shakti Puraskar from the President of India, a testament to her dedication and commitment to the cause of women's rights. Additionally, she won the 'Outstanding Women Award' in 2011, along with Mary Prema Pierick, the global head of the Missionaries of Charity.
International recognition also came her way when, in 2016, the New York-based Bustle included her among the "20 Most Inspiring Feminists Authors and Activists." In 2017, the Los Angeles-based Welker Media Inc. named her among the "12 Most Powerful Feminist Change Makers." Her impact on the global stage was further confirmed in 2018 when the Oxford Union of the University of Oxford invited her to address the union.
The life story of Manasi Pradhan is one of resilience, determination, and a profound commitment to making a difference in the lives of women. Her journey from a remote village to the forefront of the fight for women's rights is nothing short of inspiring.
In conclusion, Manasi Pradhan's work and activism have made a substantial impact in the realm of women's rights and gender equality. Her dedication to ending violence against women, coupled with her unwavering belief in empowering young girls to become leaders, has left an indelible mark on society. Manasi Pradhan's life stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment, showing us that with determination, commitment, and the right values, we can change the world for the better.