Sharmila Munj, 55, is a woman with a big difference. What makes her stand out is her attitude. A CSR and HR professional, she feels that no one, especially women, should give up on life. S Balakrishnan spoke to her over the weekend. Excerpts from an interview:
You have started a movement aimed at helping women, especially working women. What is it about?
It’s called ‘Aata Thambaycha Nahi’ (Now You Should Not Stop). During my long years in the corporate world, I found that many women give up their dreams and lead mechanical lives without any hope for themselves. A working woman has to multitask in unimaginable ways. The plight of married working women with children is a matter of deep concern. They have to put in long hours in the office and before that prepare breakfast for the family and keep dinner ready. Spend a lot of time helping their children with their studies and what not. All these activities place tremendous pressure on them. In the process, many of them stop pursuing their dreams. I felt that something should done to change this serious state of affairs. That is when I started telling the women, Aata thambaycha nahi.
How did you go about spreading your message?
I started by holding marathons exclusively for women. They were called pinkathons. I received a big boost when noted actor and health freak Milind Soman agreed to support my efforts. After that there was no looking back. I motivated hundreds of women to put on their sports shoes and run. The experience for them was very liberating. By word of mouth more women joined our marathons. The very fact of stepping out of home on a holiday and taking part in running with other women was something most women could not imagine doing. They made friends and started sharing their views and concerns. Often after college women lose tracks of their classmates. They get busy pursuing higher studies, getting married, having children, etc. The friends they have are mostly wives of their husband’s friends with whom they cannot share their secrets and worries. But my movement provides a platform where women not only make friends, but find persons in whom they can confide and share their dreams.
What is the message that you give to women?
I tell women who come to me to dedicate ‘me time’ for themselves. They can decide when that ‘me time’ will be. That time is exclusively devoted to improving their health and honing their skills. It does not mean that they neglect their families. That is a time period when a woman is concentrating fully on themselves. Many women neglect their health in the daily routine of cooking, attending office, caring for their children, etc. This can have an adverse impact in the long run. Women are prone to hormonal changes and this is the time when they need to take utmost care. ‘Me time’ combined with regular interaction with members of my movement give them the window of opportunity that they are looking for.
What changes have your movement brought about in the lives of women?
Most of them have benefited in a big way in terms of improved health and being better equipped to face situations in their respective lives. They rightly feel that they are a part of one big family where they can share their innermost thoughts and feelings. In short, a platform where they can let their hair down. I have now introduced cycling to make women healthier and more confident. And I must tell you the response is great. Many of them have become heroines to their children. And this is exactly what I had in mind when I started the movement.