FELICITATES DEEPA MALIK, GEETA TANDON, VIJAYLAXMI, ZAARIAPATNI AND 12 OTHERS WHO PROVED THAT WOMEN ARE NOT THE WEAKER SEX
New Delhi, December 16, 2016: Reinforcing its commitment towards becoming the number one fitness brand in the country, Reebok culminated the first edition of its #FitToFight awards. Over the years, Reebok has been synonymous with grit, passion & tough fitness! Through this campaign the brand is celebrating the struggles, dreams, and triumphs of unsung “women heroes”, who have overcome physical, mental and social barriers to achieve great things in life.
Hosted at the Grand Hyatt, New Delhi, the event was presided by Reebok’s brand ambassador, Kangana Ranaut – who fought all odds to become Bollywood’s biggest Blockbuster. Kangana inspired the audience regaling their real-life experiences and affirmed that physical, social and mental fitness can overcome all obstacles.
On a night of grit and glory, Reebok honored these ‘unsung women heroes’ who have been a victim of either physical abuse, social trauma or disability but changed their destiny through courage and conviction. The journey that began on International Women’s Day, saw 100 plus stories of courage, determination and faith. These women have challenged themselves to rise above the ordinary. And Kangana Ranaut, the Queen of Bollywood and Reebok’s brand ambassador have worked closely towards bringing out the inner strength of women, inspiring and encouraging them to take that leap of faith and conquer.
Ms. Silvia Tallon, Senior Marketing Director, Reebok India, elated at the success of the occasion commented, “I am proud to be associated with a brand that has given women a global platform to share their struggles. Through this campaign, not only have we found these heroes but have also inspired millions of women to come out and face their battles head-on. FitToFight is a state of mind and Reebok endorses the faith that every woman can fight all odds once they are at their fittest best. We salute the spirit of every woman who has faced obstacles and continue to challenge themselves daily in search of greater accomplishments.”
First of the many awardees was Deepa Malik who fought her disability to become the first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic games. Another awardee in the physical category was Geeta Tandon, a woman who changed her destiny from a marital rape victim to becoming the most coveted stunt woman in Bollywood. In the social category, Reebok identified the efforts of Smriti Singhal who taught the world that we are not the “marks we get but the dreams we chase”. The founder of ‘The Education Tree’, Smriti was one of the first to identify the need of holistic education and despite her health issues, she chose the path of fitness to battle the jibes of body shamers, while also taking her organization to new heights. Another awardee in this category was Malini Aggarwal, founder of MissMalini Media, who pioneered Indian lifestyle blogging. She paved way for the blogging community by turning her dream into reality. The last category awarded those who fought the mental turmoil of societal pressure and proved women can take on the world, come may what! In this category, Reebok identified the likes of Zaaria Patni a woman who came out of a bad marriage at a very tender age only to give her son a better life away from the man who gave her living nightmares and Chef Vijaylaxmi, who though confined to the kitchen, took a bold decision for her daughter by taking on her culinary passion to the commercial kitchen. (Full awardee list in Annexure)
Sharing her excitement about the association, Kangana Ranaut, Brand Ambassador, Reebok India said, “I have been immensely inspired by the stories of every woman present today. Scripted stories often tend to move us, but today every person has episodes as ‘real’ as it can get. And each is powerful enough to create a stir. I am happy to be associated with Reebok, who as a brand identify such harsh reality and celebrate the truth. This has inspired me beyond measure and I am proud to have played a part in this campaign. I hope these stories will give wings to many other women and help them come out of their shell.”
The hi-decibel event also saw a power packed performances from famous singer, Anushka Manchanda and amazingly talented ‘Ability Unlimited’ who enthralled the audience with their talent. Reebok has paved way for those who are unable to break out from their physical, social and mental confinements, through the powerful personal stories and fitness journey of these women and the night was the perfect ode to all these heroes.
Reebok‘s “Be More Human” campaign which kicked off on International Women’s Day, spanned through almost the entire year and reached over thousands of women across India. The campaign celebrates people who push themselves out of their comfort zones to fulfill their human potential and ultimately become better version of themselves. The FitToFight series has not just rewarded women who showed their courage and conviction to fight all odds but also inspired a million other men and women to take the plunge to be FitToFight and adopt Reebok’s Fitness is Life philosophy.
ANNEXURE – Full list of Awardees
- Deepa Malik – In a world where being physically handicapped can mean the end of your ambitions, Deepa Malik proves “Where there is a will, there is a way!” Deepa lost the use of her legs at the age of 30. She was left confined to a wheelchair, but met the challenge head-on! Deepa proves that physical disabilities are not the end of the world. She is a swimmer, a biker, a rally driver, a restaurant owner, a motivational speaker, an Arjuna Award winner and India’s first female Paralympics medallist! She has represented India in several national and international sporting events, and claimed dozens of awards in the process. Take a look at her tale of inspiration!
- Geeta Tandon – Apathy does more damage than outright hate ever can. Geeta Tandon learned this lesson at a very young age. Geeta’s mother passed away when she was just 10, leaving behind a distraught father and four children. Living in an impoverished household without a mother forced her to grow up faster than any girl her age should have to. When her relatives suggested to her father that his girls had gotten old enough to marry, Geeta welcomed the proposal. In her mind, marriage would grant her independence and she would only have to look after herself and her husband. And so, it came to pass, that at the age of 15, Geeta found herself married and living with her husband and his family. On the very first day she was forced to face the harsh reality that she had made a huge mistake. Her husband was an alcoholic and on their first night together, he threw a plate full of food on a wall in a drunken rage and then made her clean it up. After a few days of marriage when Geeta would still not agree to get physically intimate with him, things got even worse. Egged on by his mother, he physically assaulted Geeta, tore up her clothes and forced himself on her. She ran away from home on multiple occasions, even going to the cops for protection. The police, however, always chose to play the role of marriage counselor and advised her to go back home and make the marriage work. Geeta fervently hoped that this pattern of rape and abuse would stop once she was pregnant. It wasn’t until Geeta was 20 and pregnant with her second child that she finally realized that the beatings and humiliation wouldn’t stop. So, she left along with her two kids, taking up odd jobs for money and food. She was determined to not resort to any unsavoury or immoral work, which further limited her options. For a while she struggled, but then she caught a lucky break when a friend told her about stunt professionals. On her very first assignment as a stunt double, she had to walk through literal fire. Due to changes in the wind direction, she suffered some burns on her face. When her family members saw her injuries, they strongly discouraged her from continuing this line of work. Geeta, however, had finally found her calling. After all kinds of odd jobs and close shaves, she finally found something she liked that also paid well. Today she is an experienced stunt professional who has body doubled for big names like Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone, and her fervent wish is to become India’s first female stunt director.
Watch her story here.
- Bhakti Sharma – Open water swimmer Bhakti Sharma, loves for the sea. This conqueror of all five oceans of the world was born in Mumbai and brought up in Udaipur. She finished her first open water swim when she was only 14 years old. It was a 16 km swim in 2003, from Uran Port in Navi Mumbai to Gateway of India. And she has never looked back since.
In 2010, Bhakti became the second and youngest swimmer in the world to swim in four oceans. In 2012, she received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award from President Pranab Mukherjee for her achievements. One of the many records she holds is that of the first swim by a three-member women’s relay team across the English Channel, with her mother Leena Sharma and friend Priyanka Gehlot. She went on to set a world record in 2015 by swimming in the Antarctic Ocean for 2.28 km in 41.14 minutes. She became the youngest person in the world and the first Asian girl to do so.
Watch her story here.
- Namrata Purohit – is the youngest certified Stott Pilates instructor in the world is from India. She is also a national level squash player, a footballer, a certified scuba diver and an entrepreneur. You would be even more surprised to find that she survived a riding accident that nearly ended her career in sports. Namrata was 15 when she fell off a horse and sustained a severe knee injury. She was told by doctors to bid adieu to what she loved the most – sports. Namrata did not give up. When all her efforts to get back into full form by different types of exercise did not work she decided to join a Pilates course. Namrata now has her own studio where she takes classes six to seven hours a day. She works with a long list of sports personalities, including cricketers, football players, international squash players and swimmers. She trains many Bollywood celebrities. She is also the official Pilates coach to the Mumbai City FC team.
- Smriti Singhal –Even the smallest of steps can lead to the greatest of changes. Smriti Singhal looked at the world she was living in, and decided that it was too flawed and broken. Instead of ignoring the problems, she decided to do something about it. She started “The Education Tree” 3 years ago, at the age of 20 when she was still a student in Delhi University. The organization was created to foster and facilitate all forms of education, with a special emphasis on the holistic development of members. Today, The Education Tree is one of Delhi’s fastest growing youth-led organisation. It has successfully reached out to more than a hundred schools and colleges, while connecting with over one lakh students. Just when everything seemed to be going right, Smriti received a distressing news. She had been diagnosed with Thyroid issues and gained 20 Kg in a short time. She suffered jibes from body shamers who did not understand her medical condition, while also dealing with the stress of managing her organisation. Over the years, there have been many challenges, both personal and professional. The indomitable Smriti has prevailed against all of them. From fighting back, the disease that threatened her fitness, to taking The Education Tree to new levels of success, Smriti has shown a Fit To Fight spirit that deserves endless accolades.
- Ishita Choudhary – Being born into privilege did little to protect Ishita from the darkness of depression. It started when she was sent to a boarding school in Dehradun despite her wishes. A young and impressionable girl, Ishita was overweight, something that her peers at the new school did not let her forget. Body-shamed and rejected by those around her, Ishita spiralled into depression and tried taking her life. After the attempt, she returned to Delhi and tried resuming her old life with the help of her family in addition to regular therapy. It took some time but eventually her life started to get back on track. In 2002 the Godhra riots rocked the nation, and it’s horrifying stories shocked Ishita. She had started debating regularly in school events by this point, and when she attended the CII meetup, the speech she gave reflected her raw anger and made many guests take note of her. It was here that a fellow panelist sowed the first seeds of an idea that would grow up to become the Youth Parliament (YP). Youth Parliament today has worked directly with over 6500 young minds and worked on more than 300 projects all over India. In the 14 years since it was founded, Youth Parliament has touched the lives of 450,000 citizens between the age of 3-28. Ishita is at the forefront of everything YP does and is its representative at the UN. When she started Youth Parliament, her parents were opposed to the idea as they did not see its potential. Instead, they encouraged her to pursue singing as a career, seeing that she already excelled at it. During her work with Youth Parliament, Ishita as well as fellow members have been threatened by cops and goons alike due to the work they’re doing. Despite all this YP continues to work on influencing policies on important youth-related topics like gender, sexuality, health, education, arts, and governance.
- Miss Malini – Malini Agarwal, a.k.a. MissMalini, is widely regarded as India’s first and most famous celebrity blogger. Formerly a popular DJ on Mumbai’s Radio One (India) and Head of Digital Content for Channel V India, she founded her blog MissMalini.com in 2008 covering the latest gossip and news from the worlds of Bollywood, Fashion and Lifestyle. Aside from radio and her blog, she has also guest anchored various television shows, including CNN-IBN’s Tech Toyz and UTV Bindass’ Style Police.
MissMalini.com was founded as a hobby blog in 2008, as a natural extension to the gossip column Agarwal had been writing on the side for many years, with Mumbai tabloid MidDay. Following a surge in readership, she decided to leave Channel V to focus full-time on the blog. The blog draws inspiration from international sites such as Perez Hilton and PopSugar covering all aspects of Bollywood and celebrity life. It also covers the latest in Indian and international fashion trends, along with lifestyle content such as Travel, Food, and Nightlife. MissMalini.com’s popularity has allowed it to become the official blogging partner for leading fashion properties in India including Lakme Fashion Week, Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour, and India Resort Fashion Week. She achieved all of this from the determination to make her passion her work and this zeal has influenced several other people to take it up.
- Geetanjali Babbar – Launched Kat-Katha, a nonprofit that’s quietly been transforming G.B. Road brothels into classrooms, community centers, and safe spaces for the women and their children to learn, explore creative arts, and come alive with a sense of connection, expression, and possibility.
- Zaaria – It is the most human of things, to desire a better future for one’s sons and daughters. Zaaria was no different. After entering an abusive and draining marriage at a young age, she suffered physical and mental anguish at the hands of her husband for a long time. She was yelled at, manhandled, beaten, and even forcefully impregnated. It was when his husband sought the custody of her unborn son that Zaaria finally spurred into action. The realization that her husband might try to take custody of her son and then leave her, galvanized her into taking concrete steps to ensure this doesn’t happen. A lengthy legal battle for divorce and custody followed that raged on for 6 years, despite clear evidence of physical and mental abuse. It took a special amendment by the Muslim court which finally granted Zaaria and her son freedom from it. Winning the custody battle was the first step for her on the long road to recovering from years of abuse. She’d married at a tender age of 19 and abandoned her education midway. Without her father’s support, it would have been even harder for her to stand on her own feet. Even after she’d been granted the divorce, she faced many challenges. The first and foremost hurdle was that of being a single parent, something that the Indian society frowns upon. She frequently gets asked to “settle down”, but Zaaria has learned to ignore such requests now. Her current focus is on ensuring security for herself and her son. She has made great headway in her professional life, teaching art to children, and working as a part-time photographer for several prominent brands and designers, while also becoming a bigger part of her family business. Her biggest impact on the world, however, is the revolutionization of the divorce and alimony laws in the country! Her plight set legal precedent for thousands of other women to be able to initiate a divorce and be eligible for alimony. She is a #FitToFight mother who secured a brighter future for herself, her son, and tens of thousands of Indian women.
- Vijaylakshmi – A successful person is one who builds a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at them. A chef now, who was a domestic cook just 5 years back, Vijaylaxmi’s struggle is something every Indian woman can relate to. She was unhappy with her marriage as her husband had a dominating nature and thought women were the only ones meant to make all the sacrifices. After a struggle of 14 years to salvage her dysfunctional marriage, she finally took a stand for herself and for the future of her daughter. Once her separation was finalized, she found herself all on her own, and the object of scorn in the society. No one respected her for the choices she made and left her to fend for herself. In 2012 she got a chance to prove herself through the medium of Masterchef India where she reached the top 4. Since then her life has transformed! Where she was just a housewife before, she had become a well-known celebrity now. This also changed the outlook of people around her, and finally allowed her to get the respect she deserved. She continues to inspire women who need support to take strong decisions in their life. While still struggling as a single mom she hopes for even greater success in the future.
- Ketika Kapoor – Experiencing motherhood is truly a very special thing. For Ketika, an 11-year veteran in her industry, the experience also became a source of inspiration. She took a 3-month maternity leave when she was expecting, and then joined her company again once the leave was over. She was eager to continue her professional life, but found herself facing a challenge she hadn’t anticipated; that of unregulated day-care services. Ketaki found that there were no legal criteria that such centres were required to abide by, something that made her very hesitant about leaving her baby in their care. This was the moment she decided to do something about it and launched ProEves, a pro-woman initiative that helps women by providing them with end-to-end childcare service. Her goal is to ensure that women get the time and opportunity they need to fully realize their potential. Pro-Eves has expanded to more than 500 trusted and verified day-care centres that are flexible in their policies to meet the needs of women. Through the offering of specialized consulting services, Ketika is also helping companies meet their gender diversity goals and become more progressive. Her decision to do something about a problem she saw, instead of waiting around for someone else to fix it, makes her #FitToFight tale truly inspiring for women everywhere.
- Richa Kar – Creating a successful startup on the first try is every entrepreneur’s dream. Richa Kar did just that with Zivame. Ask her how, and you will realize that it wasn’t easy. From dealing with category that the Indian society at large is reluctant to talk about, to a myriad of logistics and inventory problems, and convincing investors that her idea her merit, Richa found herself scrambling to make her idea work. She would often find herself in corridor-sized, dust-filled stores, hunting for the right kind of lingerie for her customers. Potential investors wanted Richa to sell more than just lingerie, so as to build a safe product. But Richa didn’t let any of it take her focus away from the main problem she was trying to solve – that of making lingerie shopping a painless and hassle-free experience for Indian women. Her conviction has paid off big! Zivame is a multimillion dollar service now. Tier-2 and tier-3 cities account for a third of the company’s revenues, proving her assessment correct. Richa believes in aiming to do better than how she did the day before. This simple philosophy has guided her, and makes Richa #FitToFight.