In June 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as the world's most dangerous country for women. It cited the risks that our women face from sexual violence and harassment, from cultural and traditional practices, and from human trafficking. Was anyone surprised? Probably not. Because everyone knows that in our deeply patriarchal and traditional society, we revere our goddesses but ill-treat our girls. The #MeToo movement, which was slow to come to India but has quietly taken root, shows us the universality of the problem. It tells us that no relationship is sacred, no one is exempt; women from all classes and sections of society are repressed and oppressed here. And yet our women persevere. They fight to get ahead at work and play; they show intelligence, ingenuity and the indomitable spirit of the Devi when going for their goals; and sometimes, just sometimes, they beat the odds and give the world a success story to rejoice in. It is these heart-warming success stories that the Sunday Standard Devi Awards celebrate. The awards are designed to recognize and honour professional women who, through their exceptional work in different sectors, are helping to change the lives and lot of people around them. We instituted the Awards in New Delhi in December 2014, and have since paid tribute to women achievers from around the country. We returned to the capital for the fifth edition of the Devi in the city, and our 17th edition nationally, to celebrate the achievements of ten remarkable women drawn from across the country. Join us in listening to their stories and wishing them strong winds beneath their wings.
The 17th edition of the Devi Awards was held in the City of Joy on the night of August 31.
Union Minister of Textiles and Women & Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani was the chief guest and awarded the winners of the Devi Awards. The award recognises and honours the accomplishments of women who have, against the odds, made a distinct mark in their respective fields and contributed to the vision of a thriving and globally competent nation.
Introducing the Chief Guest Smriti Irani, Editorial Director of The New Indian Express group, Mr Prabhu Chawla told the audience, “I’ve seen her in various roles, but I’ve never known in which role to define her; she’s been a saas, a bahu, and a politician. She’s a multi-faceted persona, multi-tasking constantly. She knows so many languages - Punjabi, Hindi, English, Bangla, Marathi and also Gujarati! She was the youngest cabinet minister in Narendra Modi's government, and she also held the most important portfolio. In fact, whichever portfolio was given to her, she delivered.
"I went to Amethi where she won, and I thought they would know her from her show 'Kyunki Saas Bi Kabhi Bahu Thi'. I asked them why they voted for her, and the people came up with a banner which read 'Smriti Irani, Jhaansi Ki Raani'. Because what she had done for the town is absolutely exemplary," added Mr Chawla.
The honourable minister Smriti Irani spoke about how we can make way for more women leaders in the country. In her speech she said, "Women need no success mantra. Don't ever doubt yourself, women know how to succeed." Fielding other questions with panache, she called for doing away with gender stereotypes across the board.The Winners
This year’s recipients were: Acclaimed exponent of Indian classical dance Alokananda Roy, social entrepreneur and environmentalist Ekta Jaju, filmmaker Pritha Chakraborty, sustainable fashion influencer Sujata Chatterjee, designer trio Laldinsangi, Lalsangzeli and Lalrinpuii, entrepreneur and fashion visionary Madhu Neotia, environmental activist Temsutula Imsong, educator and social entrepreneur Parmita Sarma and lifestyle entrepreneur Ritu Agarwal.Panel Discussion:
The evening started with a panel discussion, which included names like Kaveree Bamzai of The New Indian Express group, Malavika Banerjee, who’s a handloom revivalist and the mind behind Kolkata-based label Byloom, and the awardee Ekta Jaju, to name a few. One of the most noteworthy comments came from Jaju, who revealed that it is a great time for women to pursue entrepreneurship. “If there was ever a time for female entrepreneurs to thrive, it’s now!” she said.
Interestingly, the discussion did not just talk about the issues of women, but featured a healthy debate about men too. “I think we’re raising well-behaved young boys, and it is time to change the narratives of women for the better,” Ms Bamzai remarked, as the panel agreed.
The award ceremony was a smorgasbord of powerhouse talents; Kolkata, at least, hasn’t seen so many accomplished women unite under one roof in a while. As the recipients received their awards from the honourable minister, they opened up about their success stories. While Parmita Sarma talked about her green school initiative which created global waves, Alokananda Roy talked about her experience with the inmates whom she reformed through dance. But the night didn’t end before Mrs Irani was persuaded to say something in Bengali for her fans in Kolkata. “Abar dekha hobe, Dugga Dugga,” the honourable minister said in flawless Bengali.Well-attended Event
Over 500 of the creme-de-la-creme of the city attended the event. Some of the noteworthy attendees at the Devi Awards were Sanjiv Goenka, Harshvardhan Neotia, JIS group head Taranjit Singh, Namit Bajoria, Joyika Sen, wife of Senco Gold and Diamonds director Suvankar Sen, among others who included actor Nusrat Jahan, filmmaker Srjit Mukherji, model Ushosi Sengupta, Nick Rampal, Pandit Tarun Bhattrcharya, models Diti, Monisha, Iqbal, Srija, Srijla, designer Sayan Mitra, artist Suvaprasanna, music entrepreneur Meghdoot Roy Chowdhury, consul general of Italy and media adviser of the US consulate.A veritable feast:
The New Indian Express Group did not hold back and pulled out all stops to lay out a veritable feast for all who attended. The bar, well stocked by Diageo was kept busy till well past midnight.
This is the first time that the Devi Awards are being held in Kolkata, and under the umbrella of Indulge - The Morning Standard.
It was covered by all sections of The New Indian Express Group - The New Indian Express, Indulge and Event Xpress - and received extensive reportage in print and online with over a 100 posts on social media, which were further shared widely. The pre-event coverage included promo videos, feature articles, profiles about the Devis, including a daily countdown of the event on Twitter and Facebook. The articles, galleries and videos were posted across all Indulge platforms that boast a viewership of 1,000,000 every month, while promotions were also shared on The New Indian Express and Event Xpress sites that attract over 3,000,000 views. Post-event coverage of The Devi Awards included acceptance interviews with all the winners, detailed galleries and a highlight video of the award night.
The Kolkata press was also invited to the event and the PIB (Press Information Bureau) had listed and sent out mailers for Devi Awards to be a must-cover event. Media-persons, including other newspapers, television channels and online media, thronged the event. The awards was well covered by the local media in all languages including Bengali and Hindi apart from English.
The presenting partner for the Devi Awards was Assocham India, platinum partner for the awards was RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, associate partners were Kutchina and Senco Gold and Diamonds, airline partner was Air India, celebration partner was Diageo, trophy partner was Le Trove, and writing partner was Linc Pentonic.