For the First Time Ever, India has an All-Women List of Nominees for Padma Awards

Girls and women across India are no longer hesitating from dreaming of a future where they are self-reliant and living on their own terms. 

Amidst rising debates on recognising women’s talent and achievements since the male-dominated nominations of the 92nd Academy Awards were released, India’s Padma Awards for sports this year was a breath of fresh air – featuring only women. 

The list includes boxer Mary Kom, twin mountaineers Tashi and Nungshi Malik, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur, among others. 

The recipients will be finalised and made public by the Ministry of Home Affairs on January 25. And each of them serves as an inspiration for many young girls and women across the country to chase their passion at any cost. 

MAKERS India lists the inspirational women who are paving a better future for the women of India.

Mary Kom

Six-time world champion boxer Mary Kom’s life is a lesson in succeeding through hard work and determination. Hailing from a humble background in rural Manipur, she is the only boxer to win eight medals at world championships globally.

NEW DELHI, INDIA DECEMBER 28: Mary Kom (in blue) and Nikhat Zareen (in red) in action during their 51kg category finals bout of the women's boxing trials for Olympics 2020 qualifiers at Indira Gandhi Indore Stadium, on December 28, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Mary Kom (51kg), six-time world champion, defeated Nikhat Zareen in a split verdict trial bout to make the Indian team for next year's Olympic qualifiers in China. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The 36-years-old has also bagged five gold medals from Asian Championships and secured a bronze at the 2012 Olympics.  However, Mary expressed her intention to retire after taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan awardee, her life was immortalised on the silver screen by filmmaker Omung Kumar who directed her biopic Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra in the titular role. 

Besides her sports career, the mother of three is a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha since April 2016, and was also appointed as the National Observer for boxing in 2017. More recently, she founded the Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation, aiming to identify and train boxers in the 12-18 age group, and look after their expenses as well.

PV Sindhu

Badminton champion PV Sindhu rose to fame when she was named among the top 20 in the BWF World Ranking in 2012. The 24-years-old has now broken into setting many firsts in the field. 

In 2014, she became the first Indian to win a medal at the World Championships for two consecutive years.

This includes earning India’s first-ever silver for a singles player from the Rio Olympics in 2016, even becoming the first Indian to reach the final of the badminton singles competition in the Asian Games in 2018. 

More recently, she earned the title of World Champion after battling higher-ranked Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara at the BWF World Championships in August 2019.

Since her international debut in 2009 at the Sub-Junior Asian Badminton Championships in Colombo, Sindhu has come a long way to now become India’s highest-paid female athlete and among 15 highest-paid female athletes across the world on Forbes’ list in 2019.

Vinesh Phogat

Hailing from a family of successful wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat does not let herself slack. Her many firsts include being the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and the first Indian women to clinch a gold at international events like Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2018. 

She was wrestling in the women’s 50-kg freestyle category on both the occasions.

Remarkably, the Haryanvi wrestler secured her maiden World Championship with a bronze medal after downing two-time bronze medallist Maria Prevolaraki in women’s 53-kg category.

After being honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2016, Vinesh was also nominated for the Padma Shri in 2018 as well.

Manika Batra

Table tennis champion Manika Batra got her started playing the sport for the first time when she was just four. Later in 2011, she won the silver medal in the under-21 category of the Chile Open.

The Delhi girl bagged three medals from 2015 Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, including a silver each from the women’s team and the double event, and a bronze in the women’s singles event. This was followed by another three gold medals at the 2016 South Asian Games. She was a part of the women’s team event, doubles, and the mixed doubles event.

Manika once again dominated the headlines when she led the Indian women team to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Harmanpreet Kaur

Indian cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur became the first woman cricketer to score a century in a Women’s T20I match in November 2018. She made both her ODI debut and T20I debut in March and June of 2009, respectively.

Cricket - Women's Cricket World Cup Final Preview - India Nets & Press Conference - London, Britain - July 22, 2017 India's Harmanpreet Kaur during nets Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

After 10 years of playing, in October 2019, she became the first Indian cricketer to have played a hundred T20 International matches. The 30-year-old player also became the first Indian woman cricketer to be signed by an overseas Twenty20 franchise when she was recruited for the 2016-17 season by Sydney Thunder, the Women’s Big Bash League champions.

Suma Shirur

Former Indian shooter Suma Shirur has been instrumental in leading the shooting revolution of the country as more Indian women are now taking an interest and excelling at the sport. Notably, as many as five women shooters have qualified to shoot for various events in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Suma took to shooting when she was pursuing her bachelor’s at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. She believes that the sport has changed from the time when she was just a part of the Maharashtra Rifle Association and won three silver medals during the state competitions in 1993. 

A Karnataka native, she later took part in 10-metre air rifle category at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. At the peak of her shooting career in 2004, the Arjuna awardee set a world record for scoring a maximum of 400 points during the qualification for Asian Shooting Championships. 

Rani Rampal

From being the youngest member, at the age of 15, of the Indian women’s national hockey team that participated in the 2010 World Cup to leading it, Rani Rampal is a pioneer in the truest sense.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 6: Rani Rampal, star player of Indian Women's Junior Hockey team which won bronze medal at Junior Hockey World Cup showing her bronze medal after arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on August 6, 2013 in New Delhi, India. Indian girls scripted history at the seventh FIH Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany by beating England 3-2 in a penalty shootout in bronze medal play-off match on August 4 to finish on the podium.(Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Prior to this, Rani led Team India to victory by scoring four goals at the Champion’s Challenge Tournament in Russia. She was then hailed as the top goal scorer. She also scored seven goals at the Women’s 2010 Hockey World Cup in Argentina. Further, her performance at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games earned her a nomination by the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) Women’s All-Star Team of 2010, for Young Player of the Year Award.

Soon, she will be leading the team of 20 for the New Zealand tour, starting on January 25, 2020.

Tashi and Nungshi Malik

Twin sisters and mountaineers Tashi and Nungshi Malik are the first sibling-duo to scale the Seven Summits, which include the highest mountains each from seven continents, and to complete the Adventurers Grand Slam where mountaineers must climb the North and South poles, and the summit of Mount Everest as well.

Hailing from Haryana, the two were trained at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Notably, the sisters, along with Pakistani mountaineer Samina Baig, raised the flags of India and Pakistan together at the summit of Mount Everest. 

Despite their many international honours and scholarships, the twin sisters have been nominated for an award by the Indian government for the first time.