Women empowerment is a powerful topic these days. Feminism, gender equality and blurring the lines of gender roles have been the main focus of this decade-long drive. Women are doing more today than they ever have previously, doing the same things that only men used to do and are making progress in every way. Women now bring more than their feminism: they are strong, independent, ambitious and nurturing. They are the equal halves of men and are proudly making a mark in the world.
With International Women’s Day approaching, let’s celebrate some amazing Goan women who have come a long way to break stereotypes and show that women can do anything they set their heart to. Here at Incredible Goa, we present to you the strong, successful women we have had the privilege to be associated with since the inception of this magazine.
A story of a woman who stepped out of her comfort zone to help many women fulfill their basic sanitation needs. Jayashree set up a unit of manufacturing eco-friendly sanitary pads in her village, but her journey has not been easy; she had to jump through hurdles to make it to where she is. The taboo attached to menstrual cycles and hygiene, initially made it much tougher for Jayashree to start.
Nevertheless, she persisted and now Jayashree manufactures the Sakhi brand of sanitary pads which are eco-friendly and chemical free. While many had second thoughts on taking up this project, Jayashree did not give up in spite of losses for two consecutive years. With her entrepreneurial skills, she headed and overcame her obstacles.
There were many supporters because of whom Jayashree was able to succeed in her noble cause. Her innovative venture is indeed praiseworthy. Apart from making eco-friendly pads and promoting menstrual hygiene, she provides employment to women in villages.
Neomi Barneto started her journey in Goa by setting up the first unisex family salon in the year 1997 back when Goa was yet to commercialize. A humble and down-to-earth woman, she owns a chain of parlors in this state. Neomi and her husband set up their first salon near Miramar in Panjim and now it has become one of the biggest brands across Goa.
This project was indeed risky but fortunately worked out in the favour of Neomi. As strong and driven she is, she has served for almost two decades in the salon industry in Goa. She wishes to break the stereotypes by encouraging men to take up salon training as she feels this job is not just meant for women.
Sharing her message to the people interested in this field, she says: “According to me, one needs passion, dedication and willingness to put in hard work, and you can earn well in this field. You can get self-satisfied looking at a happy client, you can make them smile. Nothing comes easy and you need to be creative, which is only possible if you are into this job.”
Sandhya Kini Mayenkar
The story of Sandhya gives hope and shares the message that says one cannot be too late in pursuing your dreams. Married at an early age, Sandhya and her husband were into advertising. With her skills in baking, she opened her own institute: SKM Institute of Culinary Arts. She took classes and taught various recipes. She now hosts 70 courses sub-divided into categories for oven, desserts, cooking, festive, preserves; jams to name but a few, because each of these has a sub-category and the list, is endless!
She also ventured into the setting up of a supermarket. As random as this sound, it was her father’s dream and she wanted to turn this into a reality. Naming it Kini supermarket’ in her parents’ name, she ventured into this without much experience but still succeeded.
The message Sandhya would want to give to women is that the courses only caters to women where she tries to open their mind and make them aware that even from home they can earn, they just need to have interest and talent to pursue something. She always goes by this famous quote from a movie ‘zindagi certificate se nahi Chalti… Kaabil bano, kamyabi jhak marke piche aayegi’.
Shreemi Pai Panandikar
The story of Shreemi is a kind that would motivate any lost soul. A bold and persevering girl, with her father as her support, after his demise, Shreemi had to build up courage by herself. Unwillingly married, she had to adjust to her new house but the hunger to create her own identity persisted.
After taking on a series of small jobs, she then taught herself graphic designing. She managed her children and still set up her own business all by her will and hard-work. Now, she masters in different signage manufacturing, all interior and exterior signage and also ventured into interior designing and executions for commercial as well as residential properties.
Sharing her message to other struggling women entrepreneurs, she says firstly it is important that women learn to maintain self-esteem at every step and secondly women should not tolerate injustice nor be taken for granted. Another important thing is what a woman puts on her priority list, be it family, health or business or indeed all three which one has to juggle well and women are very talented in multitasking.
Making a mark in the entertainment industry, Ruchika Davar is a diva that is an example of an empowered woman. In a very short time-span, she became one of the most sought-after event comperes of India. Ruchika is one of the most coveted anchors in the entertainment industry. She was married at a tender age of 19, but luckily her husband was supportive of her dreams. Her story showcases a bonding that made her the woman she is now. She says “I actually grew up after marriage.” She gives credit to her husband for believing and supporting her on this journey. Breaking the stereotypes of gender roles, Ruchika has had her husband behind her achievements.
Enlightening the women, she shared her thoughts on feminism, “I am all for women empowerment, but at the same time, I am not a hardcore feminist. I believe men and women are made differently.” According to her, men should also be given their space, understanding, and empathy and both must progress together.
A strong, new- age woman entrepreneur who has come a long way in her field of styling and fashion to make her mark as a celebrated ‘fashionista’ of Goa. She is a well-known name in the fashion fraternity and is an excellent example of dedication and determination to achieve success. Her fashion label- Ritu’s Creations has become a hallmark of designer couture in Goa. Ritu is one of the most sought-after designers here.
She launched an exclusive fashion show named “Curves and Beauty- Meet the Real Women” wherein she chose women who weren’t professional models to showcase that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes. This message helped her gain recognition in the fashion fraternity.
With her immense talent, hard work and years of experience, Ritu has faced many challenges on her way to success. Sharing her message to the fellow women out there, she said “Be confident in what you do and what you believe. You should do it with your heart. Be committed to your dreams and there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your success.”
Sabina Martins is a driving force for the betterment of women in the state for over three decades. Her women’s rights organization called “Bailancho Saad” to deal with the atrocities that are meted out to women in the state. Her journey of Sabrina towards the cause of down-trodden right from her college days and had been part of the student’s organization.
The organization has completed three decades in the state and has continued to grow stronger with time. This self-funded organization has been through quite some struggles. Sabrina, who is herself a teacher, is balancing work and her company.
The main focus is to voice opinions and struggles of women in Goa and provide them with justice. Bailancho Saad has collaborated with State AIDS Control Society and also an organization called “CRY” for the welfare women and children. Sabrina is a woman fighting for her fellow women and is a true example of an empowering woman.
Tara Kerkar is one such woman who has devoted her life completely to uplift women and empowers them. Completing her education until 10th grade in Marathi medium, Tara quit her studies due to family circumstances. Her father had passed away when she was only 10 and young Tara watched her mother shoulder the responsibilities of the entire household.
At a young age, Tara had observed the injustice that is meted out to women in society. After a tragic incident that shook her to the core, Tara Kerkar decided to take up social work to help solve problems related to women and society. She has gone out of her way to help victims and provide them with justice and not only this, she addresses sensitive topics and helps to ensure the welfare of sex workers.
She has faced many hardships and even faced threats against her noble work. But Tara Kerkar was never intimidated, she was selfless and a simple woman who with her genuine care for people in need, has become an inspiration.
Originally from Goa and belonging to a highly respected family, Varsha Usgaonkar is an actress that needs no introduction. She has been a part of the film fraternity from the past 28 years and has worked in several Bollywood and Marathi Movies. Not only this, she has also worked in Rajasthani, Bengali, Goan, and Chhattisgarhi and even in English movies.
Ever since a young age, Varsha was keen to pursue acting as her career. She eventually faced struggles to find good opportunities but later, she grew an actress bagging prominent roles in several languages.
Talking about her comeback to the Goan Film fraternity, she shared her message to the Goan Film Industry saying that, “I want to encourage directors here to make films which are culturally rich and showcase the true essence of Goa in a big way. Let the film be truly Goan, and let it look like a regional film and fully display the culture of Goa.”
Rashmi Patil is Goa’s well-known Overseas Education & Migration consultant. She is a multifaceted personality and holds several educational degrees. Migration has always been a passion to Rashmi, being the only MARA registered Migration Agent in Goa; Rashmi has indeed achieved a milestone. Apart from this, she is an ambitious lady and a realtor who handles properties in Goa whilst being an active member of BNI.
A highly educated, empowered and positive, she is an inspiration to many women out there. Sharing her message and her way to success she said: “There are no secrets to success. One has to perform diligently regardless of what obstacles you face. Life is a continuous process of learning and one needs to keep walking towards its goals. A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, hard work, determination, passion for excellence and integrity.”
Born and bought up in Bangalore, Diviya left her promising career in practicing law to pursue her passion. Leaving Bangalore in the year 2005, she established her brand Literati in the state of Goa. She has been working for quite some time for a noble cause of making available mobile libraries for children called ‘Bebook’ in the state of Goa. She feels that books can change and the child’s life and her love for books is what made her launch Literati.
Spreading the message of embracing yourselves and its added advantages, she says: “If you have the family then you are bounded by the responsibilities and you do not get much freedom but that does not mean that women empowerment gets hampered when are they are in relations and committed. There are many women out there who have families and are doing more than what a single woman does but it does not mean single women have no responsibilities. It’s just that they don’t have the support that is enjoyed by the women with families. It just depends on how you look at it.”
A story where a woman meets her passion in an unexpected way. Having come from a family that was into sports, Karen had sports in her genes. Karen enjoyed sports from a young age but never really thought a career out of it. On persuasion of her friend, Karen took part in long-distance running competition and immediately developed a liking to it.
Thus, Karen polished herself to become a runner and trainer within the next few years and rest is the story of a woman who found and followed her passion. Her lifestyle, diet and her training routine are very much structured and she balances everything like a superwoman.
She is an example of breaking stereotypes in the male-dominated sports industry and is already making her mark. As a message to women out there like her, she says, “Your health is an investment on yourself and to your family. Make it your priority. Keep exercising simple and stay consistent. Everyone is different and everyone’s progress will be different.