A school dropout at an early age, 32-year-old Shushma Bhadu belongs to the Bishnoi community from the Dhani Miyan Khan village in Haryana. Following centuries-old tradition, women in her community wore a veil to show respect towards their elders. Shushma found this ‘Purdah’ practice restrictive and wanted to break free from this outdated belief. Shushma decided to get involved in village politics to bring about change and was successfully elected Sarpanch in June 2010. To instill confidence amongst the women in her community, she built a training centre to train women in tailoring and secured funding from an Indian national bank to sponsor them. This marked just a beginning of a revolutionary change Shushma brought about for her village. She ensured that every child in her village went to school and convinced the state government to invest in a water- boosting system to provide all villagers access to water. Shushma’s popularity grew as did her confidence.
One day, Shushma discarded her veil in a public meeting and asked for everybody’s support to do the same. Now her actions have inspired every woman in the Dhani Miyan Khan village to show their faces happily to the world. Sushma has proved to be the true Iron lady for her village. Under Shushma Bhadu’s guidance, her village won the “Nirmal Gram Puruskar” given by the Union government for its sanitary conditions, has zero school-dropout rate and a better sex ratio than any other village in Haryana. Recently, Sushma has introduced rewards for whistleblowers to expose families adapting sex determination tests and announced scholarships for poor girls wishing to pursue higher studies. Today, Sushma continues to crusade against old age practices of female foeticide, dowry and domestic violence.