Having graduated from the Goa Medical College and soon marrying into one of Goa’s most respected business families, Pramod Salgaocar has come a long way. Her journey was not a bed of roses and she faced many challenges on the way, including playing many roles of supportive wife caring mother, wonderful mother-in-law, and remarkable social worker. Now at this juncture in life, she wants to give back to society in whatever way she can and her story is a truly inspiring story of women’s empowerment.
“I had completed my Graduation from Goa Medical College (that time it was the Bombay University) in the year 1972,” she said adding that she topped at Bombay University and received a gold medal in surgery “and after that, I joined the GMC to do my post-graduation in Gynaecology. But destiny had other plans and I got married while doing my second year and things changed completely,” said Pramod adding it was her parents who insisted to get married. She also could not say no as she was getting married to one of the most respected and big business families: the Salgaocars. “I wanted to continue my practice as a Gynaecologist but that was not possible since I was staying in Vasco da Gama and traveling to Panaji on daily basis. It was too hectic a task after getting married with other responsibilities around, even my in-laws were not in favour of me working at that moment and I had decided to take a back seat and wait for a couple of years but then I had my first child, my son, and things kept pulling me back into my responsibilities as a mother and wife.”
Although she could not take up a job due to her responsibilities, she never regretted that as she was more interested in the family than a career at that point in her life. “The birth of our son, kept me busy and I could not pursue my career, but I never regretted that anytime for not going back to work as I enjoyed every moment of my family life which I think I was lacking as a child myself,” she said adding that she was out of her parent’s home for a long time while doing her studies in Panaji. “I spent a long time in Panaji, I left at the age of 15 my home for the purpose of studies and when I came back, I got married, I hardly had any time to spend with my family and that is why I was enjoying every moment of my family life with my husband and son.”
“I could not continue my medical practice but I never wanted to give up hence when I got the opportunity to work at Red Cross in Vasco, I immediately grabbed it,” said Pramod adding, that Red Cross was the beginning of my journey into the field of social work at that time for her. “I used to take care of the Red Cross clinic and at the same time, I was carrying my two-year-old son with me. The red cross was not just a medical facility but there were so many things like providing nutritious meals, and milk products to the underprivileged and poor people. I started enjoying every bit of work I was doing at the Red Cross. Here I got connected with the problems of women and developed an urge to do something for them.”
Pramod believes that despite there being much hype around Women’s Empowerment, women still don’t have the independence to decide for themselves. “It always goes like this: parents will decide, the husband will decide and in-laws will decide. There is no identity for women- they can’t even decide which college to go to and which field of work to take is decided for the women by their parents initially and later on by the husband, in-laws and children when they grow up,” she said.
The entire picture changed when her husband decided to get into the pharmaceutical business and bought Geno Pharmaceuticals. “My husband’s family is been into the mining business but he decided to take up the field of his own interest,” said Pramod adding that the pharmaceutical business was his first-generation business that he started almost from scratch. “Since it was his first step into the pharma world, I decided to step in as a support system to him, since I already had a medical background. We both ran this business for 30-plus years and let me tell you the journey was not a cakewalk at all. Doing business is not easy and we had also seen troubled times, but we came out of that with our hard work and dedication.”
According to Pramod, the initial 10 years were a very difficult period in their business but she stood by the side of her husband and supported him in every possible way by bringing the business back to a profit-making organization. “With God’s grace and all our hard work the business is doing tremendously well with a huge turnover,” she said adding she decided that it was time to work towards the empowerment of women and she started her new journey in that direction. “The beginning of the journey started with joining the Congress Party and taking care of the state Mahila Congress as a member and after a few years, I became the state president and soon I was given the charge of vice president of National Mahila Congress and till date, I am holding that position.”
In 1997, the state commission of women was formed by the Congress party in Goa. “The commission was formed with my initiative with the help of women organizations in Goa. All the major women organizations, such as Bailacho Saad, Bailancho Ekvott, run by Sabina Martins, Auda Viegas we all came together and formed the state commission for Women in Goa,” said Dr. Pramod adding, that she became the chairperson of the first State Commission for the Women in Goa in 1997 and I carried that responsibility for 3 consecutive terms a Chairperson.
“Now I have decided to step down from the board and shift the responsibly to our son Sagar Salgaocar who is taking care of the day-to-day operations at Geno,” she said adding that she wanted to shift her focus more on social causes and things that interest me. “I have many things on my bucket list and I am already involved in so many other activities, I am also into movie production wherein we produce regional language films. Award-winning films such as Mare Paryant Phashi was my first movie which I produced in 2007 and then I produced “Baga Beach” which got a national award and recently I have produced two more movies – the first is D’Costa House and the second one is still under post-production. These are my activities which keep me busy throughout the day.”
When I asked Dr. Pramod about the “Diva” content she said that this just started 2 years back and the purpose behind it is to give platforms to women entrepreneurs. “The idea behind this contest was to bring a real essence of the woman. When we talk about the ’diva’, what first thing comes into mind? A beautiful woman, and it shows that people objectify women, they don’t see beyond their body and face, but in reality, a woman is much more than just an object: she is more powerful than a man and the bottom line is, when you think of a woman, you think of your mother and you will see the real woman behind the object.”
“According to me when you think of the term Diva, think of a woman who is empowered and who is capable of doing so much more work and that is why I told my daughter-in-law, Pallavi, that a Diva should be an entrepreneur,” said Dr Pramod.
When I asked Dr. Pramod about her future plans, she said that “I am only retiring from the Geno and not from my responsibilities. Now I will get more time for myself and to pursue my dreams. I want to spend my time doing things that I like. I want to make more films, since I was a part of the Indian Medical Association, I also want to work in that direction and keep on with my association with Congress.” She also has a lot of interest in art and painting for which she never had time and that she wants to do now.
According to Dr. Pramod, empowerment is not a vaccine: it has to come from within. “Most important is knowledge and that comes from education and hence the girl child needs to be educated at whatever cost. Getting just a book education and degrees is not empowerment- they need to light up their inner power and once that happens the women empowerment will happen in reality,” she said adding if they don’t know their rights and they don’t respect others’ right then there will be no empowerment. “I feel that the most important empowerment is financial. Every woman should try and stand on their own feet. There should be financial independence at the initial stage of her life. She needs to ask for the money from her father, or husband later on. Another thing I want to bring to light is acquired skills. Every woman has some skills for sure and she needs to identify her skills and work towards them. One is good in cooking while others may be good in stitching, some may be good in painting while other may be skilled in doing embroidery, the possibilities are endless. Even bringing skilled people together is a business that can help generate revenue for everyone and bringing people together under one roof is also a skill. Hence my final appeal to all those people who talk about women empowerment is to educate the girl child and control the boys and most crimes will automatically vanish from society. Whatever shackles they are putting on girls should be imposed on the boys. Instead of telling girls to be at home early at home, it’s better to tell the boys not to go out at night and the girls will become safe automatically. When this happens in reality, it will be the best women empowerment formula. A woman needs to be respected all the time since she represents the goddess,” Dr. Pramod concluded with these words.