When most people with her qualifications would work hard to make a life of material comforts, she chose to take up the cause of downtrodden farmers, helpless communities and dedicated her life for the good of the world. A fierce orator, a determined activist, and well, a very decided style icon too, she is Dr. Vandana Shiva, scholar, physicist, environmental activist, and the author of over 20 books on the subjects of alter-globalization, and food sovereignty.
I have seen her in many public events and the first thing that leaves an impression on people in her presence, is her simplicity that uniquely complimenting her fortitude, the confidence in her upright walk, and a khadi cotton saree, that put together, goes on to speak volumes about her earthy and simple lifestyle and igniting, inspirational personality.
Born to a forest officer father and a farming enthusiast mother, Dr. Shiva received the love for the environment from her parents. Yet it was at the young age of 25 when this love turned into passion. In an interview, she told the story of how after coming back from college one vacation she decided to visit a forest she used to go to as a child. “…the oak forest was gone, it was chopped down to start apple plantations, which is useless,” she told Brut. The profound impact this left on her changed the very course of her life and she began her monumental work right then.
“We share this planet, our home, with millions of species. Justice and sustainability both demand that we do not use more resources than we need.”
She was the woman behind the legendary Chipko Movement. Conceptualizing the unique protest and the mobilizing of hundreds of villagers to come out of their homes and hugging their beloved trees in order to prevent government officials from cutting them down.
Yet more than all the activism that has been attributed to her, the most important is Navadanya. A foundation working solely for bringing together women and fighting for food sovereignty. Dr. Shiva has been instrumental in bringing the awareness about organic food in India and giving the confidence to rural communities and farmers to stand up for their rights.
One amongst Forbes Magazine’s most powerful feminists, Dr. Shiva has vocally declared the need for women in many forums. Her struggle for social justice and environmental welfare she has become an ambassador of India’s environmental diversity and the challenges it faces. Reminding governments and multinationals that people are more powerful than the leaders, and they are not bigger than the planet we call our home.
“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”
As an admirer of the Saree, I can’t help but mention the way she has taken this elegant attire and made it into a recognizable style statement in all her public appearances all over the world. Whether it is a lecture at Yale, or an interview with the Prince of Wales, accepting complements from Mark Ruffalo or simply having a nice time with her community at her farm, either smiling broadly or advocating fiercely, you will almost invariably find her clad in a saree with a bold red bindi adorning her forehead.
As an inspiration to millions across the world her motivational speeches, and public address have been known to mobilize crowd, shake gigantic corporations to the roots, and change the mindset of governments. Covered extensively in film and media, Dr. Shiva remains approachable for anyone who may choose to visit her farm community in her presence.
“I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential.”
Fierceness, boldness, confidence, and passion. Dr. Vandana Shiva personifies everything we look for in a woman of today. Our salute to this woman of wonder.