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Mary Kom, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou And Dr Jane Goodall: Four Inspiring Women Against The Odds

All women are success stories because all women have to overcome Himalayan odds to become what they are. Whether it is a corporate achiever, a mother completing graduation at 40, a high-flying politician, a homemaker setting up a bakery or catering service, or a successful scientist, the odds are what bind us to one another. Our common trials and struggles make us a sisterhood. We celebrate four successful women - MC Mary Kom, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou And Dr Jane Goodall - who surmounted all odds that life threw in their paths and emerged victorious. Let's take inspiration from the lives of these personalities and gather the courage to realise our own dreams.

Maya Angelou's Life

Maya Angelou was an African American poet, author, and a civil rights activist. What brought her success and fame is her autobiography in seven volumes. In addition to her widely successful autobiography, she also published three books of essays and several books of poetry. Angelou is also credited with a list of plays, movies and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

Counting a list of Angelou's successes is not to say that she did not have a difficult life. The odds were stacked up against her indeed. Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Angelou's parents divorced when she was three. She along with her brothers were sent to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, USA. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. When she revealed the incident to her family, her uncles kicked the culprit to death. Frightened by the power of her own tongue, Angelou did not speak for the next five years! She moved to San Francisco with the hope of starting a career as a professional theatre artist. But she had to give it up because she had a son at 16. Instead, she worked as a nightclub waitress, tangled with drugs and prostitution and also danced in a strip club. Luckily, she was discovered by a theatre group at one such strip club.

In 1959, she moved to New York, became friends with prominent Harlem writers, and got involved with the civil rights movement. Soon after, in 1961, she headed to Ghana where her writing flourished under the African cultural renaissance. When she returned to the U.S., she began publishing her multivolume autobiography, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In 1981, Angelou was appointed Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Angelou's life is testimony to the fact that successful people do not have it easy. However, not having it easy does not mean, one cannot be successful.

Malala Yousafzai's Story

Malala Yousafzai is a household name and the inspiration to many a feisty young girl. She is a champion of women's right to education. She has been awarded the Sakharov Prize, the National Youth Peace Prize of Pakistan and the Nobel Peace Prize. At 17, Yousafzai was the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Born in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Yousafzai grew up in a region dominated by the Taliban. As the Taliban gained more control, they began to enforce new laws that curbed women's freedom. Eventually, the Taliban demanded that the girls' schools be shut down. About this time, Yousafzai's father was approached by the BBC to get a female student to write about her life under the Taliban rule. Despite being worried about the safety of his family, Malala's father Ziauddin Yousafzai encouraged her to write a blog for the BBC. So, at 11, Malala was blogging under a pseudonym for BBC Urdu, about life as a girl under Taliban rule.

Malala's forthright nature and her views on girls' education got her into trouble with the Taliban. After rising to prominence as an outspoken advocate of girls' rights, she survived an assassination attempt at the age of 15 when the Taliban shot at her in her school bus. This incident sparked international condemnation of her would-be killers.

Fortunately, Malala survived the injury to her head and was back to school after a prolonged treatment of six months. Today, she is a graduate from the Oxford University in the UK and a vocal activist for women's right to education, This young woman overcame the obstacles life threw in her way and emerged as a role model to millions.

MC Mary Kom's Life

Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom aka MC Mary Kom is a world famous Indian boxer and incumbent member of the Rajya Sabha. Mary Kom's list of successes is as long as the list of her problems. Kom was born into a northeast family in India and helped her parents in the fields. As a child, she was interested in sports but did not pay much attention to boxing. It was Dingko Singh and his gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games that inspired Mary Kom to take up a career in professional boxing.

As a young girl from an economically backward Manipur household, Mary Kom didn't receive support from her family and society. Therefore, she kept her interest in boxing a secret. She was aware that the patriarchal society discouraged any notions of a woman becoming a boxer. She faced many struggles and was discriminated against throughout her journey towards becoming a successful sportsperson. However, she continued to focus on her dreams despite all odds.

Today, Kom is the only woman to have won the World Amateur Boxing Championship six times, the only female boxer to have won a medal in each one of the first seven World Championships, and the only boxer (male or female) to have won eight World Championship medals. The list of Kom's success does not end here. Nicknamed Magnificent Mary, she is the only Indian female boxer to have won a bronze medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She became the first Indian female boxer to win a gold medal in the Asian Games in 2014 and is the first Indian female boxer to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. In 2016, the President of India nominated Kom as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Maginificent Mary indeed surmounted all odds to become an Indian sporting superstar. She is a role model that aspiring sportspersons look up to for their careers even though it might seem difficult at times.

Dr Jane Goodall's Life

Dame Jane Morris Goodall, formerly Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall, is an English primatologist and anthropologist. The British primatologist is considered the world's best expert on chimpanzees thanks to her 60-year study on the wild chimpanzees in Gomber Stream National Park in Tanzania. She is a renowned scientist credited with carrying out the world's longest running wildlife research project. Dr Jane Goodall did not belong to a disadvantaged family, neither did she have to compromise on her education. However, that is not to say that she did not face challenges in her career. Born in 1934 London, Goodall had a dream of travelling to Africa as a child. Her dream was laughed at the time "because we didn't have any money, because Africa was the 'dark continent', and because I was a girl".

But she did realise her dream and her pioneering study of human-like chimpanzee behaviour made her a renowned authority on primates. Goodall was the first person to observe tool creation and use - something previously thought to be exclusive to humans - in chimpanzees. Goodall is also a dedicated advocate and activist on behalf of animal welfare and conservation causes.

Equally importantly, she has inspired generations as a shining example of women in science. At a time when female scientists were often considered incapable of fieldwork, Jane Goodall proved everyone wrong with her inspirational success story.

All women face bias and prejudicce. Even though some may not have endured poverty, hardships or physical abuse in childhood, discrimination and gender bias is common all women achievers. Breaking the glass ceiling is not easy, but it has been done by many pioneering women. Let us thank them for making the journey of womankind in general that much easier by inspiring other women and girls.

Pictures courtesy: Official Instagram pages.