Manasi Joshi, a para-badminton champion and recipient of several national and international accolades has joined Mattel’s list of extraordinary women who inspire young girls to dream big. On the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, Joshi was felicitated by Mattel in the form of a Barbie doll modelled after her.
Earlier last week, Manasi was also named one of the ‘Next Generation Leaders’ by TIME magazine.
In a brief interview with Kool Kanya, Manasi Joshi talked about what this means to her.
“I feel very honoured to get a one-of-a-kind doll for myself,” she says.
Sheroes is a series of dolls modelled to the likeness of inspirational women across the globe.
The idea behind the series is to represent more women in varied fields and inspire young girls to achieve their goals, whatever they might be.
The Sheroes list includes popular personalities such as Frida Kahlo, Naomi Osaka, and Patty Jenkins among others, as well as the likes of wheelchair racing champion Madison De Rozario and para-swimming champion Sumeyye Boyaci.
Manasi is the second Indian woman to receive this honour, with the first one being gymnast Dipa Karmarkar.
Women’s representation can encourage young girls to value themselves
In a world where girls are systemically discouraged from developing and living up to their potential, Mattel’s attempts to bring more women in the spotlight is essential. The tagline for the Sheroes series – You can be anything – sparks a conversation around representation.
“I personally believe that inclusion is the new language we all should be speaking from here on. When we talk about inclusion or diversity or even representation, it’s important for young girls to see these dolls. This tells them that they can do anything and be anything,” Joshi tells Kool Kanya.
The numbers don’t lie. With the pandemic affecting girls’ prospects of getting quality education – especially in India – it’s important to make concerted efforts to ensure they don’t fall into the traps of illiteracy, early marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
How does this representation help? By showcasing to little girls that nothing can stop them from dreaming and achieving their goals.
Manasi Joshi’s TIME magazine cover shatters stereotypes against persons with disabilities
Joshi has had another achievement to celebrate in the past week, for which she is ecstatic beyond words.
She graces TIME magazine’s Asia cover as part of its ‘Next Generation Leaders’ issue, and is the first para-athlete in the world who is a part of the list.
“People have one kind of attitude towards people with disabilities. We will be able to change this once we see someone out there who is representing the community.”
In 2019, Joshi won gold at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championship – one of the most prestigious badminton tournaments. TIME’s recognition of her calibre and her zeal is one step forward in de-stigmatising the public’s perception of persons with disabilities.
If not on the receiving end of pitiful glances, persons with disabilities are seen as ‘inspirations’ simply for existing. This is yet another form of stigmatisation that Joshi wants to do away with. For her, it’s about how she is seen.
Joshi, a former software engineer, met with an unfortunate accident at the age of 22, causing a grave injury that led to her leg being amputated. During her time in recovery, she went back to the sport she played growing up – badminton. On her friend’s insistence, she decided to try out for the national para-badminton team. She has been unstoppable since.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Joshi, emphasizing on the importance of girls having female role models to learn from. With kickass women like her, it’s inevitable that young and impressionable girls will believe in themselves and their abilities.
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