Monalisa Padhee was born and bred in Sambalpur, Odisha. The pursuit of a ‘well settled life’, emphasised by her father, led her to graduate in biotechnology, after which she moved to Australia for higher studies. During her PhD, Monalisa worked on a project looking for any link between what mothers eat around the time of conception and adult diseases in babies.
Gradually, her interests widened into greater practicality. “It’s not that I did not enjoy research, but I wanted to see the relevance of my lab work and research in people’s lives,” says Monalisa. It was then that she decided to take a ‘leap of faith’—return to India and work on a rural development fellowship. “During my time on the field, I realised that health issues in these communities could not be isolated from interconnected problems of education, discrimination against women, financial dependence and poor understanding of rights.”