The United Nations has announced a new girls’ empowerment ambassador. And she is, wait for it… Wonder Woman.
Yep, you read it right. The UN has picked a comic book character (who has a movie coming out early next year, FYI) as a role model for girls everywhere to emulate. This comes right on the heels of a controversy of sorts, where the international peace-keeping body rejected seven female candidates to pick one António Guterres as the next Secretary General of the UN.
In an article titled U.N. Picks Powerful Feminist (Wonder Woman) for Visible Job (Mascot), New York Times writer Somini Gupta says: “Dozens of countries pushed this year for a woman to be chosen as the next Secretary General, pointing out that the United Nations pledges to promote gender equality around the world and arguing that it needed to ‘lead by example’.”
Enter Wonder Woman. Yes, she’s a bad ass, who can kick ass. But we had to ask the question – why pick a micro-shorts and bustier-wearing fictional character when there are so many real women breaking barriers, stereotypes and glass ceilings?
Yesterday’s edition of the Hindustan Times included a front page story on Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson of the State Bank of India, who has been nominated as MD and COO of the World Bank – the third most important position in the international organisation. If she’s appointed, she will be the first Indian to hold down such a high profile post at the bank. And right now, she’s overseeing SBI’s merger with six other groups, which, when combined, will become one of the biggest money lenders in Asia. She’s already broken that glass ceiling, and how.
In fact, Bhattacharya’s one of a trifecta of women ruling the Indian banking sector. There is Archana Kochher, MD and CEO of ICICI and Shikha Sharma, CEO of Axis Bank; all three are Fortune magazine’s 2016 ’50 most powerful women’ who live outside America.
This list isn’t complete without Indra Nooyi, the original Bharat Beti who’s been kicking ass globally since 2001 (she was appointed CFO then). She’s number 2 on Fortune’s list of 50 powerful women in the US. And we have to name-check Vanitha Narayanan, IBM head for India and South Asia, who is described as a key player in the company’s global growth.
Let’s also salute the young women who’re killing it on the sports circuit. Sakshi Mallik, PV Siddhu and Dipa Karmakar have been feted, and girls like Lalita Babar (the first Indian woman to qualify for an individual Olympic track event final in 32 years), and Bengaluru girl Aditi Ashok (who, at 18, was the youngest women’s golf contender at Rio this year), have also been spotlighted. They’re great examples of what the modern Indian woman can achieve despite the odds.
Then there’s Priyanka Chopra. Controversies like this one aside, PC has shown what a brown-skinned girl can achieve with guts, gumption and good business sense. A starring role in a TV show (Quantico), featuring as a guest on the shows of Jimmy (both Falon and Kimmel) and getting linked with Tom Hiddleston, current darling of the western entertainment industry, don’t happen just like that.
Kudos must also be paid to women like Radhika Apte, who kept her wits about her and shut down a reporter who attempted dig up an unnecessary controversy around nudie scenes she did for two up-coming films. “People who are ashamed of their own bodies have curiosity about other people’s bodies,” she said.
Whatever your political inclinations, and personal views on Hillary Clinton, you must doff your cap at her. This is her second time running for president (and title of leader of the free world), and that too, in the dirtiest of political fights in US election history. If she wins, she will be the first female president of the United States in its 200+ year history. She will also have to face down ISIS.
But she has help in that quarter. Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer who sadly is more in the news for her marriage to a Hollywood star, sued ISIS last month. She’s taking the terror group to court for genocide atrocities committed against the Yazidis, ethnic Kurds from northern Iraq.
These are just a few of the millions of women that we can look up to. Yet, we must make do with a cartoon as a global shero.
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Art work: Aditi Sharma