TWENTY ONE FABULOUS FEMALES FROM DIVERSE FIELDS REVEAL HOW THEY FEARLESSLY PUSHED BOUNDARIES AND FOUND THEIR INNER POWER
by ASJAD NAZIR
THE theme for 2021 International Women’s Day on March 8 is Choose To Challenge. It is a call to challenge gender bias, celebrate women’s achievements and make a positive difference. It is also a global call for equality, tackling injustice and to make young girls believe they can take on any challenge.
Eastern Eye got 21 inspiring women to reveal what made them choose to take on big challenges and key advice they would give women or girls wanting to do the same.
Sajal Ali: We (women) should never shy away from accepting challenges and should instead convert these challenges into opportunities to create our own story with confidence and fortitude.
Helly Shah (Actress): I’ve always been up for challenges. For me, any sort of challenge is what makes you grow in life, which means you can’t just grow being in your comfort zone always. You have to take risks, take up challenges, come out of your comfort zone and encourage other people to do the same. So, if you wish to do something and feel that it is a little difficult and challenging, just go for it. Even if you fail, you will have learned a lesson for next time, and when you attempt to do it, you’ll do it better, so just go for it.
Rokhsana Fiaz OBE (Mayor of Newham): I’ve always strived to create an equal world because our rights as women are human rights. I’m an advocate for justice and fairness. That’s why, as a political leader and a woman of colour, I continuously push for change so that our voices are heard, our ambitions fostered and our contributions valued. Choosing to challenge, which we do every single day, in every possible way, requires strength and fortitude but, crucially, it shows our courage. It can be scary and tiring; but calling out gender bias and misogyny is also so empowering and a reflection of our confidence. So, to all the ladies and girls reading this: keep on disrupting and choose to challenge for equality.
Gauahar Khan (Actress and TV personality): A woman’s life is full of challenges, ups and downs. I believe everyday should be celebrated as women’s day for our mothers, the way they raised us and the way women are going ahead to achieve goals, which is just incredible. As a woman, I love to take up challenges in life. It gets me going and what’s life without some fun and excitement of crossing hurdles, and making it to the top. My advice to other women would be never hesitate in taking up challenges, working hard and believing in yourself because anything is achievable.
Celina Jaitly (Actress and activist): I truly believe that we should never let our fears prevent us from taking on challenges. I also believe through my personal experiences in life that we have more potential than we think, but we will never know it fully unless we keep challenging ourselves and pushing beyond our own self-imposed limits.
Rumer (Singer-songwriter): I want to take on challenges mostly because I’m curious and have a desire to learn. I always grow and learn, each time I challenge myself, even though I’ve made so many mistakes. My advice would be to take challenges, but don’t sacrifice family life, your health or wellbeing doing so. Look for those to help and guide you. No one achieves great things alone.
Jaswant Narwal (Chief crown prosecutor, Crown Prosecution Service): As a prosecutor, it’s my desire to deliver justice for all. I work with communities to give a voice to victims from all backgrounds, particularly those who are often too afraid to speak up or are simply not heard. I’m committed to shining a light on hidden offences such as forced marriage or honour-based abuse, encouraging victims to come forward and report these crimes, and for all criminal justice agencies to better understand them. As an Asian woman, I say, always believe in yourself, don’t be discouraged by setbacks; it makes you stronger. Influence change that supports equality of opportunity, fairness and inclusion. Follow your drive and passion, and do the right thing, and you will break new ground.
Jini Reddy (Author): I’ve always been driven to follow my curiosity. I once hiked over a 17,500-ft mountain pass in Nepal with a friend, not quite realising the scale of the challenge. Exploring outer and inner landscapes are second nature to me. As a writer, the challenge is to write about such things in a way that is inviting and readable. My advice when embarking on something new is to play the long game; deploy persistence, courage, trust, integrity and the invoking of divine assistance – whatever it takes! A willingness to give it your best and then letting go is key.
Armeena Rana Khan (Actress and activist): I simply ask myself the question: Does this excite me? If yes, then I pursue it knowing full well that excitement is the one emotion that will drag me out of bed on the mornings when the novelty of the challenge has worn off. I would advise anyone else to use the same lens.
Himanshi Khurana (Singer and actress): I believe as a woman nothing is impossible. We are strong, powerful and determined. Once we decide to take it up and achieve it, we have the strength to do it. As for me, I think life is a challenge. If it would be simple, it wouldn’t be as exciting or adventurous. I love to face challenges in life, whether it be taking a difficult project or standing for what is right. I wouldn’t falter, fight for my rights and for the right of others, as well as take up the challenge and prove it to everyone. So yes, I believe women shouldn’t get scared before taking up a challenge and fight bravely to achieve it.
Nia Sharma (Actress): I don’t see any obstacles or new tasks as challenges. Whatever I have done has been part of my work and I have just gone all out to give my very best. I have always been game to do new things and that is the kind of attitude I have. I welcome challenges and don’t see them as any sort of barrier. They are opportunities to do something new. My advice to girls is don’t get held back, bogged down, stopped or controlled by anyone, including someone you are in a relationship with. Retain your unique identity, and remember, no one can stop you from achieving anything or taking on any challenge.
Harshdeep Kaur (Singer and musician): Imagine how boring life would be without any challenges. It’s always the fire to overcome challenges and difficulties that keeps one going. When you set goals for yourself and are able to achieve them, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and happiness that cannot be put in words. My advice to young women and girls would be that you should learn to be independent, and believe in yourself as unconditionally as possible. There’s nothing in the world that you cannot achieve.
Soraya Sikander (Artist): Challenges are a way of growing, pushing one’s boundaries and discovering one’s own strengths as well as presenting new opportunities to better oneself. As an artist and a woman, it is important for me to always challenge myself as a person and for my practice, to push the boundaries of my art, to create new things. I would say to anyone, keep going, keep pushing, raise the bar and never stop.
Drupti Vaja (Nurse and singer): My parents and grandparents were the first contributing factors who have been huge catalysts that have helped shape my passion to take on new challenges. They always pushed me to pursue my dreams within music and nursing, and always continue to sing. To all my women and girls, my biggest piece of advice is develop you skillset, keep creating, work hard and don’t ever give up.
Ashi Singh (Actress): Challenges and obstacles are important parts of life. They give you experience, learning and strength. The feeling of growth makes me choose to take on challenges. My life without challenges would be very simple and I might not grow. So, taking challenges head-on help me to grow and that’s why I always choose different characters. Challenges enable me to do different things, excite me personally, and have made me a better actor and person. Challenges are a reminder that limitations I think I had are, in fact, invalid. Challenges and obstacles is life, in a way, presenting you with a big opportunity for growth and progress. Challenges foster a belief that obstacles are a normal part of life. Knowing one can overcome obstacles, learn from struggles and benefit from mistakes lays a solid foundation for success. There is a famous saying, “the greatest view comes after the greatest climb” and I personally found it to be true.
Rubina Dilaik (Actress): I choose to take up on challenges because I strongly believe that once we put ourselves through challenges, our innate potential just comes to play. The more we go through challenges, the more polished we become. To all the girls who are wanting to do the same, just be authentic and never shun away from any challenge that comes your way because these challenges only determine the path towards your own success, in whatever field. So, take up the challenge, mould yourself even if it breaks you, get up again and make a beautiful life. Share lessons you learn from your challenges with others, motivate them and pull them up along with you.
Mehreen Syed (Model, activist and philanthropist): Women are the mothers of the world. When they are strong and take on challenges it makes the nations strong. My advice for women is not to be afraid. You can’t live your life being afraid. Be brave, step forward and do the right thing. By doing this, women will change the world for the better.
Raveena Tandon (Actress and activist): Challenges are life’s way of showing you how strong you are and that anything is possible. They are not there to destroy you or pull you down. They will lift you up, if you let them. I choose to take on challenges so I can learn something new, including about myself, and, hopefully, inspire others. My only advice is to be brave and face challenges head on. Your inner power is greater than any obstacle.
Elena Fernandes (Model and actress): Change and growth can only ever come from being challenged. You need to be pushed out of your comfort zone and face new and sometimes difficult times in order to get you from A to Z. Nothing great ever came from being comfortable. If you want change and to truly achieve something, you must take on adversity, be resilient, face your fears and persist.
Surbhi Chandna (Actress): Having a very supportive family from a young age made me believe I can take on any challenge in life. This self-belief and expectations I have of myself make me take on challenges. Each one makes me stronger and makes me believe a little bit more, that “yes I can”. Being strongheaded has always been my asset. My advice is don’t give up, don’t ever get disheartened and always surround yourself with good people who believe in you. Be in an environment where people help you and encourage you to grow. When taking on challenges keep remembering how amazing you are and that you were born a queen.
Jasmin Bhasin (Actress): What drives me to take on challenges is the greed to be successful, grow in life, make my parents feel proud and become an inspiration for others. I want to inspire each and every girl that no matter what our circumstances or what we have been given or not in life, we should keep fighting and giving our best. To always grow in life. I was one of those girls who didn’t have anything and wasn’t given opportunities, but never gave up. I want to show that you can pursue your dreams and have a unique identity. My advice is to have your own set of rules and work with conditions you are comfortable in. Set your boundaries and let no one force you to step out of them. Give your 100 per cent when given an opportunity and never leave space for regret. Make the most every chance and give your best.