Women of grit who want to make a difference

But both have come out to do their bit for women.

While two-time Everest climber Santosh Yadav's life itself is an example of how women can fight adversities to reach new 'heights', Shanta, a community activist in west Delhi's Nangloi, is trying to make her life "worthwhile" by working among underprivileged women in her slum cluster.

On the eve of international women's day, both were on the job espousing the cause of women. While Santosh appeared as a brand ambassador for an awareness campaign on malnutrition, Shanta shared the dais with veteran actress Sharmila Tagore at an event on maternal healthcare for downtrodden women.

Santosh, who was from a village in backward Rewari district of Haryana, reminisces how her family was being pressurised for getting her married since when she was in class IX.

"I went on to become a graduate because of my determination. To ease off the pressure on my parents, I got myself admitted to a college in Jaipur. From the hostel, I used to get a view of the Aravalis and fill thrilled.

"I used to go near the hills for painting when one day I met a group of rock climbers. From their instructor, I got the address of a mountaineering institute," Santosh recalls.

From there, it was a long and arduous journey for Santosh who scaled the world's highest peak first in May 1992 and then again in May 1993. On the way, there were social and  other hurdles, but the gutsy lady overcame them all.

Santosh says she understood the importance of nutritional food for women when she went for the mountaineering course in Uttarkashi's Nehru Institute and was found underweight. "That is why I am supporting this cause. If the mother is not healthy, how the baby will be healthy. Education is the key. When a mother has the right education she will know what to eat and how to take care of herself," she says.

Shanta, on the other hand, did not have much of education. She studied upto class-VIII and was running a PCO in Bhimnagar in Nangloi but due to her natural leadership abilities, a large number of people from her area who used to come to her shop started depending on her for various works.

Now, the 47-year-old mother of two leads of a group of community activists in her area, helping women during pregnancy and diseases, communicating with officials on their behalf for availing bank loans and various facilities under government schemes and holding legal awareness camps with NGOs. "I just want to make my life worthwhile.
Women of the area come to me for their work," she says.

"She has turned out to be a useful link for voluntary groups active there," says a representative of NGO Human Rights Law Network which is representing six pregnant women from Bhimnagar in a case filed before the Delhi High Court on women's reproductive and food rights.

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