Newsweek lists Mayawati among 8 women leaders around world

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New Delhi, Oct 15 (UNI) A woman from India's most disempowered class finds herself listed among eight women in leadership position around the world in the latest edition of American magazine Newsweek.

She is no other than BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

The cover package of the magazine carries an autobiographical sketch of Ms Mayawati, a leader hailing from a dalit family of Uttar Pradesh, along with those of seven others in its 'Women and Leadership' series.

These are Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of the French conglomerate Areva, Director General of WHO Maragaret Chan, Cofounder and Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington, actor Kyra Sedgwick, president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services Andrea Wong, desighner Rachel Roy and golfer lorena Ocha.

Ms Maywati minces no words while tracing her lowly origin and degrading existence in the past: ''I was born into a Dalit family in Delhi and grew up with eight siblings in a modest home in a crowded neighborhood. My father worked as a low-paid clerk, and my mother, an uneducated woman, toiled hard to run the family,'' she says.

She became aware of her low status in the society when as a child she along with her father, mother and siblings would visit her grandparents' village in Uttar Pradesh to spend their holidays.

''During these trips I became acutely aware of the oppression that the Dalits in India faced. When I was in eighth grade, I began noticing that our relatives' huts were always in the most neglected and impoverished part of the village. Invariably, the Brahmins and upper castes would occupy the best houses and plots of land.

This is so outrageous and unjust,''.

This kind of existence fired her with a passion to rise out of this situation and she devoted herself to studies, as she had been told by her father that without proper education, she would not be able to do anyhing to help her people, says the BSP leader.

After graduating from Delhi University, she took a job as a teacher.

''I was full of energy and enthusiasm. During the day I would work as a teacher, and in the evening I would study law. Soon I acquired a law degree and started preparing for the entrance examinations for the civil service so I could make things happen for the poorer people.

It was at this stage that she came in contact with BSP founder Kanshi Ram who advised her to give up the idea of joining the administrative services and go along with him into politics.

''I was already going into various localities to educate poor Dalits; Kanshi Ramji heard me addressing some meetings and perhaps got impressed. My parents had big dreams of my becoming a top government administrator. But Kanshi Ramji told them their daughter had leadership qualities and they should let her join politics so that top bureaucrats would one day take orders from her,'' says the BSP supremo.

Finally in 1984, she took a big decision and plunged full time into politics.

''Kanshi Ramji, leader of the new Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), or Majority Society Party, took me under his tutelage...What steeled me in those trying days was the ill-treatment of Dalits... As a single woman and a Dalit I faced slurs, neglect, insults, even physical threats. Unlike many Indian leaders, I was not handed down political privileges. I had to struggle very hard for every inch of political space I occupy today.''.

Then, Ms Maywati goes on to describe how she had to change her initially aggressive approach to broaden the base of her party and finally met with success in the last elections when for the first time in 17 years, a majority government led by a Dalit is in place in Uttar Pradesh.

''Our aim now is to replicate the winning formula in other states and prepare for the bigger struggle to capture power in New Delhi,'' she says.

The autobiographical skecthes of the eight women are prefaced by an essay from senior Editor Barbara Kantrowitz in which she takes an overview of most powerful women in history since the days of Cleopatra down to Elizabeth, Catherine, the Great of Russia, Golda Meir and of course Indira Gandhi.

UNI

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