Best South Asian Female Role Models of All Time Everyone Should Look Up To

8 months ago / by Melanie Fourie
Female Role Models
Mother Teresa was one of the most exceptional South Asian female humanitarians of all time. 
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Female Role Models – A role model is someone whom other people want to emulate, either immediately or in the not-too-distant future. Most young people are undoubtedly on a quest to learn who they are and how they fit into the world. Thus, it is important to have a role model who can help them succeed in life. Having a role model is beneficial for many reasons.

We might all need a role model who has successfully navigated adversity and emerged victorious. The perspective you have on some subjects might shift after talking to someone like them. When you have a role model who has been through similar experiences and can relate to your problems, it gives you hope that you can do the same. Having role models who have overcome adversity may be very motivating. Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela are just two examples of people who overcame adversity to become influential figures. Because of this, they have gained a great deal of admiration and respect. Here’s our list of phenomenal female role models of South Asian descent. 

Vandana Shiva

Environmentalist, activist, physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, author, and science policy advocate Vandana Shiva is the head of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy. She acts as an ecological consultant for a number of groups, including the Third World Network and the Asia Pacific People’s Environment Network. She won the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” in 1993. She has written over 300 papers in top-tier scientific and technical journals, as well as books and articles such as “Staying Alive,” “The Violence of the Green Revolution,” “Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge,” “Monoculutures of the Mind,” and “Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit.” She is also a contributing editor at People-Cantered Development Forum. 

During the 1970s, Shiva was an activist in the mostly female-led nonviolent Chipko movement. The anti-globalization movement, of which she is a prominent member, is known as the Global Solidarity Movement. Her work “Vedic Ecology,” which draws from India’s Vedic legacy, demonstrates that she has advocated for the value of various customs. Shiva has pushed for new ways of thinking about and approaching farming and nutrition. Shiva has made contributions in the areas of intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, and genetic engineering via her activism and research. She has worked with anti-genetic-engineering initiatives led by Green movement grassroots groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria.

 She established a charity dedicated to advancing scientific inquiry, technological development, and ecological awareness in 1982. For many, her book “Staying Alive” was a turning point in how they saw women in developing countries. In addition to his work with the Third World Network, the International Forum on Globalization, and the Women’s Environment & Development Organization, Shiva has advised governments in India and across the world.

Ela Bhatt

Indian attorney and social activist Ela Bhatt has spent decades advocating for the rights of women entrepreneurs. She founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in 1972 in response to the plight of low-income self-employed women in the city and across South and Southeast Asia.
Three years after its founding, SEWA had 7,000 members and was officially recognized as a labour organization by the government. They had around 220,000 members by December 1995, making them the biggest union in India.

Mother Teresa

Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping the globe’s impoverished and homeless. She lived in Calcutta, India for a long time, when she established the Missionaries of Charity to serve the poor. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa became an international icon of altruism and compassion. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognized Mother Teresa as a saint the same year (2016).

Skopje, the head of what is now known as the Republic of Macedonia, is where Mother Teresa was born in 1910. Little is known of her childhood, save that she always had a strong need to become a nun and aid the poor. When she turned eighteen, she received approval to become a nun in Ireland. She was allowed to go to India after a few months of training with the Sisters of Loreto. She decided to be called after St. Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of missions, when she made her solemn religious vows in 1931.

She first worked as a teacher after arriving in India, but the overwhelming poverty in Calcutta had a lasting impact on her, prompting her to establish a new order known as “The Missionaries of Charity.” The fundamental goal of this mission was to take care of those who had no one else to do so. Mother Teresa saw service to others as a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Jesus’s words, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me ,” were her favourite words.  

In her time in Calcutta, she went through two notably stressful phases. There were two major crises leading up to the partition of India: the Bengal famine in 1943 and the Hindu-Muslim riots that year. Following her graduation from the convent in 1948, she devoted herself full-time to helping Calcutta’s underprivileged. For cultural sensitivity, she opted to dress in the traditional Indian attire of a white sari with a blue border. Mother Teresa and a handful of other nuns lived for a long time on a shoestring budget, frequently resorting to begging for food and money. However, the local community and Indian leaders eventually recognized and praised her work with the impoverished. It was at her first home for the terminally ill, which she founded in 1952, that she saw to it that individuals might die with honour. Mother Teresa often visited with the terminally ill. The absence of adequate medical care and the unwillingness to provide pain medication has been criticized by several. Others argue that it allowed many forgotten persons to die with the knowledge that they were not forgotten. Her work gained international attention. By the end of 2013, over 130 countries were being served by 700 missionaries. Their sphere of influence grew to include care for the terminally sick and children in need of homes.