Mansi Chandra started her entrepreneurial journey, with the motive to be financially independent, six years ago and started a small shoe manufacturing factory in a rented space in Agra named Ta.Ra Innovations. Her grit and determination bore fruit, and two years later she built her own factory and eventually crossed the 100 crore mark in turnover by the fourth year.
For her professional achievements, Mansi has been honoured by FICCI as the Outstanding Women Corporate Director and Canara Bank as the Best Women Entrepreneur.
Mansi stands out as she is a women entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry of shoemaking. Female factory workers in the shoemaking industry would do small jobs and lacked skilled based training that pays well. Mainly as they never received the opportunity to learn or were trained. Male factory workers dominated these important functions. To empower her female factory workers, Mansi has been training them with important skills essential for export shoemaking and has now successfully trained several of her staff to become more valuable through the knowledge of their skills.
Over the years, Mansi has been closely interacting with her female employees and local women and has been guiding them to stand up for themselves, helping them become financially independent. Most women who reach out to Mansi for help and support are ones who either have lost their husbands, divorced or abandoned by their families. As Mansi, herself lost her husband when young, raised her two daughters by herself and started her own business without any external support; she would not miss out an opportunity to help women in similar situations and guide them to be financially independent and provide emotional support during tough times.
She met Aparna Rajawat, Founder of Pink Belt Mission who shared the same vision of empowering women, they both came together to define what Pink Belt Mission is today. While Mansi as an entrepreneur believed in empowering women through financial freedom and job-based skill training, Aparna in addition to this believed in empowering women in 5 dimensions, i.e. through physical strength, mental health, legal-rights awareness, digital awareness and emotional support, all together along with the knowledge of self-defence.
Today, Pink Belt Mission is not only helping empower women and children for their individual requirements but has also been organising free of cost self-defence workshops for girls and women, as an initiative to train to protect themselves and stay prepared in times of any assault. Their shared vision towards women’s safety and empowerment created a global impact that furthered the cause. In February 2020, Pink Belt Mission was awarded the Guinness World Record for organising the largest self-defence session.
“I was born in a conservative Rajput family with five siblings. Growing up with two dominant brothers was extremely difficult. I had to endure all the physical violence from my own brothers, which made me realise that my inner strength was the only way of protecting myself. At the time where young girls my age were still playing with dolls, I decided I wanted to learn Karate. Since there weren’t many girls playing this sport, I fought my championships with other boys. It gave me the strength I always was in need to stand up tall, undefeated against my brothers and school friends. I felt the need not to use this strength to protect myself and extend it to those who needed protection. I remember once when I was only 7 I was fighting for some of my girlfriends who had landed themselves in trouble and a very simple question crossed my mind — WHY CAN’T GIRLS FIGHT FOR THEMSELVES? The seed that was subconsciously planted in me, bore fruits years later in 2016 when I started my very own dream mission called the Pink Belt Mission,” says Aparna Rajawat.
The Pink Belt Mission intends to strengthen every Indian woman by providing them health awareness, safety techniques, legal rights, cybercrime, self-defence, computer literacy and vocational training to prevent sexual and domestic abuse. They work on the mental strength, emotional strength and the legal strength of women as Aparna firmly believe that women need to be educated about their rights against sexual assault, harassment and violence.
“I have been a 13 time National Champion, two times National Open Challenge Champion, Silver Medalist in South Asian Karate Championship and have also been a Kick Boxing Champion… Unfortunately, I met with an accident in 1997 and had to quit my dream of competing for the World Championship. But the fact that I was finally my strongest self, was indeed a real victory for me,” Aparna continues.
“Once, I was sitting in a restaurant, and I saw a tour manager instructing a group of foreigners. This was the time before the Pink Belt Mission became a part of my life. Coming from a small town, this was rather intriguing for me. Youngsters like me were actively chasing their dreams and making suitable career choices. I impulsively thought to myself that I also wanted to pursue this career as that would make people listen to me and follow my instructions. Additionally, it would also mean that I could fulfil my dream of travelling around the world, especially Switzerland, and that is how I became a travel guide. I travelled a lot of places due to this profession.
You know what they say; travelling provides you with a perspective like never before! All my life, I always thought very differently about the role of a woman in society due to the traditional background I came from. However, after having travelled worldwide, I got the opportunity to interact with women who helped me change my views about the existence and importance of a woman. It made me want to go back home to my motherland and make every woman feel as liberated as I felt then. The thought of not being able to do enough made me restless, but I still continued to travel and work until one day in the year 2012 when the story of the Nirbhaya Case shook the world. That was it — the turning point in my life. I quit my job, and I finally decided to pick up all my strength and put it to use for uplifting the women who I knew needed me,” she said.
Teaching women how to stand up for themselves had always been at the back of Aparna’s mind, but the Nirbhaya Case reignited this spark. She realised that it was time to get moving, to make women understand their true strength, and she started the Pink Belt Mission to help women learning self-defence. Truth be told, her experiences along the way, were not good.
Quite soon, she realised that society’s basic fabric could not be changed single-handedly; the government has to become an active part of the solution. All schemes for women are available, but they are not implemented correctly. After studying in-depth, Aparna realised that despite the presence of law for women, lack of awareness makes everything go waste.
It is not easy to change anything in a dominant male society like India. Empowerment for women is still misunderstood to be a fight of women vs men. At the time she started working on this mission, self-defence was not considered to be a necessity. It still isn’t, but Aparna believes that the times are better now. Women are waking up and standing up for themselves, and she is trying to provide them with as much help as they can. Financially too! Aparna started the mission single-handedly with 100 of her first master trainers, and now they are one huge family of 2000+ trainers where they have together trained more than 150,000 women.
Pink Belt Mission received appreciation from various regions of the country and even beyond for the work they have been doing. There was once a movie being made on Pink Belt Mission by Hollywood Director John Mcrite. While working on the story together, Aparna wondered what could give this movie its most deserved climax. That’s when it hit her. It was time to fulfil her dream — break the Guinness World Record for organising the world’s largest self-defence lesson — nothing could indeed be better than to show the ultimate strength of women standing together for themselves as the ultimate climax of the film.