Women At Work aims to bring to light the inspiring stories of women from all walks of life, who have broken societal expectations and pursued their dreams. We hope to become a platform for these exemplary stories of women who have stepped out to work, and encourage more to build economically secure futures. Over the course of the year, this page will play host to thousands of stories, featuring women from across the country, engaging in different forms of work. Some may be beauticians, some may be electricians, others may be running their own enterprise, and many may be engaged in the arts. Everybody is welcome to this stage.
Join us in telling the stories of these extraordinary women and help us showcase relatable role models for young girls and women everywhere. If you know an interesting woman, whose story deserves to be in the spotlight, refer to the stories below, then write to us at email@example.com with your pitch. Subscribe below to receive regular updates.
Meena, The Tattoo Artist
Meena Suraj Yadav, a talented and dedicated tattoo-maker runs her small scale road side business for 10-15 years. The reason for doing this job, she shares, is out of necessity to support her family in addition to her obligation of tattoo-making that comes to her by virtue of her caste, Kunchikorve. She considers her job challenging as she needs to be very careful throughout the process so that the delicate process does not go wrong and she loses out on her customers. She learnt her skills from the mehendi classes she attended at home. With her income she helps her husband with family expenditure and sends her children to school, in return for their full support and appreciation of her work. She seems proud to be working relentlessly for seven days a week, nine hours a day running her business and managing her household as well. (She mentions that she lives with her parents along with her three children, away from her husband but she does not share the reason.)
Her dedication and interest in her work is highlighted as she enthusiastically explains about the intricacies of the big designer tattoos. She carefully carves out the plan and steps in her mind before implementing the design on her customers. She is happy to cater to local customers from different age groups with diverse tastes at affordable cost as compared to big branded tattoo shops. She deals with the uncertainty in her income and finds out ways like setting up her stall in fairs (mela) to earn a better wage. She is motivated to expand her stall and get more equipment and a shop instead of sitting on the road side. Meena is a happy soul, satisfied with her work that earns her bread and butter and gives her pleasure to pursue her creativity as well.
Gunavathi, The Auto Driver
Ms. Gunavathi, a cancer patient and an independent auto driver lives in the slums of Chennai. She is a mother of 4 daughters and adopted her niece when her sister passed away. Ms. Gunavathi is an orphan with no information about her relatives. She used to work as a maid and it was difficult to make ends meet. That’s when speed trust helped her and the official of the trust taught her driving. Now she is an auto driver, working for the past 14 years. She rides her auto till 11:30 A.M then takes rides to pick up school children and get back home at 5 P.M. Ms. Gunavathi narrates that it is difficult to be a women auto driver as people pass comments, shout at them, take them for granted but she doesn’t like to communicate with such people and simply wants to do her work. She is happy working as an independent auto driver as she is able to provide for her family.
Ms. Gunavathi mentions that living conditions of the slums are very poor as basic needs such as toilet facilities and water supplies are a problem, along with the issue of drainage which leads to their house flooding during heavy rains in the area. The VIPs look down upon them but Ms. Gunavathi says that, “They should not look down upon us, as she earns for her family and works hard. Although she doesn’t have ancestral property, lives lavishly or wears costly jewellery, she has a good heart”.
Being a cancer patient doesn’t defeat Ms. Gunavathi. The doctors operated her Thyroid cancer twice and said that she will lose her voice but she says that God had other plans for her. She says, “I believe any disease is just like a wind, it will fade away from us as it blows.” She has a thirst for success as she overcomes all these difficult situations in her life. Ms. Gunavathi gives a message to every woman: they should not sit idle at home but should work and earn a living. She wants other women to be independent and work on the path of success. Ms. Gunavathi says, “I will always be working happily and not think of myself as a cancer patient”. She believes she has a fire in her to succeed in life despite her extremely challenging situations.
Sonia, The Beautician
Just a few metres away from her house, Sonia saw two men on a motorbike with a small can in their hand approaching her. Throwing the content of the can, they fled the scene after throwing it on her. She describes the feeling being similar to the sensation of warm water on the skin. Merely a few seconds later, the skin started to melt off her bones. Rushed to the hospital, she remembers being made to sit under a shower as she shivered and screamed.
Sonia had unknowingly bought a stolen mobile from her neighbour. After his arrest, the guy blamed Sonia for the crime. He demanded an apology and upon Sonia’s refusal he planned to throw acid on her. This was in 2004; years later and she still calls him ‘bhaiyya’ (brother).
Sonia was heavily influenced by Madhuri Dixit; so much so that she emulated the actress’ appearance and garnered umpteen compliments. She believes in the first impression being the last impression and made sure she made a lasting one. During her childhood, she would barely attend her art classes because, for her, drawing art on herself in the form of make-up was much more interesting than showing art on paper.
After the incident, Sonia realized that the chemical thrown on her was acid. She recounts the pain as unbearable for 48 hours and something that only medicine could relieve. Three years after the incident, she did not look at herself and had her mother lock away all mirrors and reflective surfaces in the house. One day, however, when her mother wasn’t home, she went into the kitchen and picked up a thali (plate) to see herself. When she did, Sonia cried unrelentingly until it felt that there were no tears left to weep. She noticed how her lips were down to her neck and her eyes were on her cheeks. She kept wondering why she did not come with her father that day.
3.5 years after the attack, Sonia decided to start working and set up a beauty salon in her house with just a dressing table and a chair. One day, a customer ventured into her salon and asked her if she is up for the job. Sonia had only one reply; if the customer likes it then she should get 10 more customers to the salon and if she didn’t then she doesn’t have to pay.
She clears the fact that the major transformation we see in movies after just one surgery isn’t factual at all. It took Sonia six years to find a good doctor and her surgery lasted for 9-10 hours. As they were removing the stitches, she asked the doctor to show her face. She was scared of how she would look. After the doctor obliged, she noticed that her lips were back to their place but for her the skin still looked weird.
When Sonia was younger, she used to love looking at herself in the mirror, a quality also picked up by her daughter. She also used to love outlining her lips, applying eyeliner, mascara and kajal - for which she got a lot of compliments. In 12 years, Sonia’s face has changed a lot but she’s still beautiful. She’s perfect!