Eighty-three-year old R Muthukannamal is a picture of grace. Dressed in a silk saree with strands of jasmine tucked in her braided hair, and a striking round, red bindi on her forehead, she greets women in the audience as she walks to the stage to receive the lifetime achievement award in the field of arts. A Padma Shri awardee, Muthukannamal is India’s last sadir dancer from Pudukottai, a seventh generation dancer having performed across Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
It is believed that she is the last surviving dancer of the 32 devadasis who once performed for the deity at Viralimalai’s Murugan temple in Trichy. The gracious dancer hopes to keep the tradition alive by teaching the art form to the younger generation. She is one of the awardees at the sixth edition of We Wonder Women Awards that honours women from across various fields presented by Kovai Wonder Woman Trust.
Dr Srimathy Kesan, founder &CEO of Space Kidz India, who is committed to identify and nurture future scientists by working in the area of space education with school children, won an honour in the field of space research. “People laughed when I said we should launch satellites from India. Today, we have launched 18 balloon satellites, two sub orbital, and two orbital satellites, all built by students,” she tells the audience. The Kovai Wonder Woman Trust that started with four members is now a 50-member team that works towards gender equality and social progress of women.
The evening turns the spotlight on Dr Amudha Giridhar, obstetrician and gynaecologist who has conducted as many as 25,000 normal deliveries, and parai artiste Chandrika Palaniswamy who has played the parai across 500 plus stages in Tamil Nadu. She is determined to remove the stigma surrounding the instrument. Other notable awardees include Steffi John, education officer at Madras Crocodile Bank for her work in creating awareness on reptiles among schools students and Keshini Rajesh from Madurai, a champion in kettlebell, a Russian sport used to train soldiers in armed forces. The game changer awardee is G Selvamani, a lorry driver from Sankagiri while I S Yasmin, one of the first lady detectives from Coimbatore walks away with an award for excellence in her chosen field.
Day two of the event started at the crack of dawn with a freedom run at Decathlon near Neelambur, flagged off by V Balakrishnan IPS, Police Commissioner of Coimbatore. More than 3,000 participants including men, women and children and a team of differently-abled people took part in the awareness run on women safety and equality. This was followed by sessions on aerobics and beledi, Indian belly dance fusion performances that kept the momentum going. The funds raised from the events will are used to support the education of girl students in rural pockets of Tamil Nadu.