Aparna Rajawat, a renowned motivational speaker and self-defence trainer, has changed the lives of thousands of women.
An international martial arts medallist and multiple times martial arts champion at the national level, Aparna Rajawat’s inspiring life has been encapsulated in a two-time international award-winning Hollywood documentary film by John McCrite.
Though her family roots lie in Jaipur, Rajawat was born and raised in Agra. She began practising karate at the age of seven, and won several international medals by the time she was 14. She went on to win a martial arts medal for the country a record 16 times. After fighting against various obstacles in the field of sports, she established herself as a successful sportswoman.
Off the beaten track
Rajawat’s journey has not been easy. She met with a major road accident at the age of 17 and was forced to take a break as the recovery took about a year. After being pressured by her family to give up sports, she moved to Delhi and joined a dance group. She began excelling at her newfound passion but was forced to drop her career midway and return to Agra after her family learnt about her new profession.
In her early 20s, Rajawat planned to join the tourism industry. Back then, there were no women tourist guides in Agra, hence it wasn’t an easy feat. With every rejection, she became more determined in her resolve until at last she got the job of a local tour guide in Agra. She put in a lot of hard work and rose to the rank of being one of the finest tour managers in the country. Over time, she began training others and touring various countries as a professional trainer. In 2014, she bagged the job of a tour director in London. Thereafter, Rajawat spent a decade as an international tour manager in Europe and South Asia with the world’s best companies in US and UK.
Dealing with gender bias
During her growing up years, Rajawat found that the rules set for her brothers and for her were different. “My brothers could pursue any career they wanted to, but my potential was limited,” she says. Hence, she decided to fight for her rights as a woman and chose a path that was different from the one expected of her. “I was passionate about sports, and had given my heart, soul and sweat to follow my dream despite the opposition,” she says. Rajawat’s courage to pursue sports left a trail for other women in the family to emulate. She inspired them to become torchbearers by walking the same path together.
The Nirbhaya case that took place in December 2012 shook the nation and Rajawat was equally traumatised. Having herself been often bullied by her brothers during childhood, she was convinced that it was important for women to attain physical strength. In 2015, she returned to India, and started a self-defence training programme for eight girls’ schools in Agra. The following year, she formed an organisation called Aaleya that worked towards adopting needy children and sponsoring their education. As a part of Aaleya, she taught self-defence to young girls in schools, colleges, universities, corporate and ladies clubs. In 2017, she formed the Pink Belt Mission with the aim of ensuring complete safety and protection for women. Pink Belt Mission provides young girls and women with physical, mental, emotional, legal, fiscal and digital strength. So far the organisation has almost 1,68,000 women in the country.
Leading a social change
In 2020, Rajawat joined hands with entrepreneur and international Karate champion Mansi Chandra, a shoe factory owner based in Agra. Currently, they have employed more than 150 women at the factory, thereby providing them with financial security and independence. In February 2020, she created a Guinness World Record for holding the largest selfdefence class consisting of 7,401 women ranging from the age of 5 to 86 years. “I knew that I was born to do something different in life,” muses the international medalist in martial arts, guest speaker at Woodland Hills, USA, and guest of honour at Rotary Club of Calabasas, Los Angeles, USA.
In 2018, Rajawat received the Iconic Woman Award and got nominated for an HT Award for giving self-defence training to 1,50,000 women in India. Pink Belt Mission recently launched a brand called Pink Soul Mission, which creates shoes solely “Of women, For women, By women”. Along with her co-founder Mansi, Rajawat plans to expand her business to different cities across the country. Her vision is to train 10 lakh women and provide financial empowerment to 50,000 women by 2025.