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Eight Women, Eight Stories

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As India’s economy grows, reports have indicated alarming drops in the percentage of women in its workforce. From a high of 31 percent more than a decade ago, the number has dropped to about 23 percent in recent years. The reasons for this are myriad and include shifts in agricultural labour, which makes up the largest part of the female workforce; and changing social pressures and mores.

What this means is that women are becoming even less visible in Indian public life. In cities, more women in the workforce means more women in the streets and on public transport, which makes life safer for everyone. In both rural and urban areas, women who work gain social clout within their families, becoming decision makers by virtue of their earning power.

For International Women’s Day, we decided to profile eight women in fields that are typically associated with men. These women are engaged in diverse occupations—from patching 20kg truck tires to building nanosized cell culture models for pharmaceutical testing. Their motivations vary widely, with some responding to practical concerns and other following their passions, but they all have one thing in common: an indomitable resolve to be counted as equal citizens.

Bhavna Paliwal, Private Detective

img_7728_lowresA private detective and head of her own agency, Bhavna Paliwal is intimately familiar with Delhi’s darker side.

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Nidhi Goyal, Disability and Gender Rights Activist and Comedian

A visually impaired activist and stand-up comedian, Nidhi Goyal took up the mic to talk about the way people perceive her.

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Devki Joshi, Sub-Inspector Delhi Police

With over three decades in the Delhi Police under her belt, Devki Joshi now manages an all-woman fleet of emergency response vans.

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Mehrun-Nisha Shaukat Ali, Bouncer

While Mehrun-Nisha Shaukat Ali once dreamed about becoming a soldier or a police officer, she ultimately put her brawn to use as a bouncer.

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Pelva Naik, Dhrupad Vocalist

Young classical vocalist Pelva Naik lets nothing come between her and her passion for dhrupad, a genre that has largely been performed by men.

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Prajakta Dandekar, Pharmaceutical Biotechnologist

Biotechnologist Prajakta Dandekar is on the cutting edge of a new technology that could revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry.

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Shanti Devi, Tire Technician

Shanti Devi works alongside her husband In the no woman’s land of Delhi’s largest truck stop.

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Shubhangi Yuvraj Mandare, Assistant Station Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade

As an officer in the Mumbai Fire Brigade, when Shubhangi Yuvraj Mandare is on the scene of disaster, she’s the woman in charge.

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This article is part of a series of stories written by freelance journalist and editor Sonal Shah and photographed by Abhinandita Mathur on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.