Many women in India, have excelled in fields that are traditionally considered to be ‘male-dominated.’ These women have not only mastered their respective roles, but have also set a benchmark for others to follow their dreams, and battle through circumstances.
On Saturday, 112 such women will be felicitated by President Ram Nath Kovind, as “First Ladies” for being the first in their respective fields.
The Government has made a teaser video of the event, highlighting the achievements of some of the awardees. Watch it here.
Here’s a look at some of the changemakers:
Hailing from Sundarpura village, in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Manju, and her three children fell on hard times, after the death of her husband, who was a porter and the family’s primary breadwinner.
However, Manju stepped up and decided to become a porter as well. While this decision came as a shock to her family members and others, Manju soldiered on. Five years later, her earnings fluctuate, but her determination is constant, and she has become a role model for women fighting patriarchy and poverty. Read the rest of Manju’s amazing story here.
Dr Bharati Lavekar:-
Moved by the plight of women who were unable to afford or get access to sanitary napkins, Dr Bharati Lavekar set up India’s first digital sanitary pad bank.The one-of-its-kind bank was inaugurated on 28 May 2017, which is celebrated as World Menstruation Hygiene Day. She has also been instrumental in getting sanitary napkin vending and disposable machines in schools and public toilets. Learn about Dr Lavekar’s inspiring story here.
Hailing from Soda, a village in Rajasthan, Chhavi quit her lucrative corporate job in 2010 and decided to get into development work. She went back to her village and has been working hard to bring clean water, solar power, paved roads, toilets and a bank to the village. Chavvi Rajawat’s life story is truly inspiring, read this for further details.
First women fighter pilots, in the Indian Air Force:-
Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, officers in the Indian Air Force, were commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter pilot stream for women on an experimental basis. Learn about the amazing journey of these pilots, here.
First differently-abled woman to top the civil services:-
Ira Singhal topped the UPSC examination in 2014 and had to fight various obstacles. She cleared the UPSC in her fourth attempt, a commendable feat, considering that she had to fight a case against the authorities who debarred her from progressing after she sat and cleared the exam in 2010. Read more incredible facts about Ira Singhal here.
First Indian woman who manages a crematorium:-
Praveena Solomon is an English literature graduate from the University of Chennai, and a mother of two. She is also the crematorium manager of Chennai’s oldest and busiest cremation ground and has dispelled all myths about women not being able to work in a position that might traumatise them. Praveena’s story is truly inspiring. Read more here.
First woman to become lieutenant general:-
Punita Arora is the first woman in India to don the second highest rank, i.e., Lieutenant General of Indian Armed Forces, and is also the first female Vice-admiral of the Indian Navy. In 2004, she was appointed as the Commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, becoming the first woman officer to command the medical college. Read the full story of this Lieutenant General here.
First woman cadet to join the Indian Army:-
Priya Jhingan was the daughter of a police officer and always wanted to serve the country. In 1992, her dream came true when she became the first woman cadet to join the Indian Army alongside a batch of 25 other feisty women. Priya got commissioned into the Judge Advocate General in 1993. After a glorious career, spanning ten years, Priya retired in 2002 as Major Priya Jhingan.In 2013, she decided to join Lawrence School in Sanawar as an English teacher and a House Mistress. Read about Priya Jhingan’s journey here.
First female merchant navy captain:
A resident of Kodungallur in Kerala, Radhika Menon became the first woman to captain a ship of the Indian Merchant Navy. She was also the first woman to be awarded by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for her exceptional bravery in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in the Bay of Bengal, in 2015. Read the rest of this incredible story here.
First Woman Firefighter:-
A graduate of the National Fire Service College (NFSC) in Nagpur, Harshini Kanhekar, is India’s first woman firefighter. Taking a path never traversed by women before, she has become a role-model for other aspiring firefighters. Learn interesting facts about her journey here.
First female professional poker player:-
Muskan Sethi is the first professional female poker player from India and has been recognized as a rising star by the Global Poker League (GPL).She is India’s 28th-ranked player on PocketFives, and has racked up $114,589 in cash online as “musku89,” and has another $44,310 in live tournament cashes to her credit.
India’s first female bartender:-
Shatbhi Basu is considered to be the pioneer of bartending in India. She is regarded as an inspiration by many, and her illustrious career is the perfect example of how much a person in the industry can achieve.Shatbhi runs her own professional bartending academy called STIR and has also hosted a television show on mixology. Read about how Shatbhi broke stereotypes here.
First woman from India to reach Antarctica:-
Aditi Pant, a well-known oceanographer, was part of the Third Indian Expedition to Antarctica that ran from Dec 3, 1983, to March 25, 1984. Braving the cold and extreme weather wasn’t an easy feat. Read more about her incredible journey here.
First woman commando trainer:-
A 7th-degree black belt holder in military martial arts, Seema Rao is India’s only female commando trainer. A prominent expert in close quarter battle (CQB), Seema has been providing commando training to the armed forces in India for 20 years, without taking any monetary compensation in return. Learn interesting facts about Seema’s action-packed life here.
India’s first woman coffee taster:-
Sunalini Menon is Asia’s first woman professional in the field of coffee tasting. She joined the Coffee Board of India in 1972.She worked with the board for 24 years before she opted for voluntary retirement, and later launched her consultancy, Coffeelab limited, in Bangalore, India.