From being drivers of progress to scaling new heights, women are now at the forefront.
Women in India, despite limitations have always stood for their rights and scaled new heights. The year 2018 was the year of womanhood, where women are the drivers of progress. Here is a list of women who made it big last year, by becoming the first in their respective fields.
Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi
Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi last year created history by becoming the first female Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot to complete a solo flight on a MiG-21 Bison. She was also India’s first female fighter jet pilot along with her unit Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth in 2016.
Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Chaturvedi was inspired to join the armed forces by Army officers in her family, including her brother, who is also a lieutenant.
While she was pursuing her Bachelor’s of Technology, she took aviation as an additional subject at the campus aviation school. After cracking the IAF exams – AFCAT, she was trained at the Hyderabad Air Force Academy for six crucial months. After she completes her stage-3 training at Bidar, she will be eligible to fly Indian fighter jets like Sukhoi and Tejas.
Kanakadurga and Bindu Ammini
You must not know these women by their names but you would definitely know them by their deeds. Kanaka Durga (39) and Bindu Ammini (40) are the two women who made history by entering Sabarimala temple last year, in Kerala, which traditionally bans the entry of women of menstrual age. They decided to enter the temple after India’s Supreme Court ruled in late September 2018 to end a ban on women of menstruating age entering it.
A massive protest erupted after the women entered the holy shrine. They had first tried to enter Sabarimala on December 24 but had to abandon their trek following protests by the Hindutva agitators. Indomitable, they patiently waited and stayed in a secret location for a week and finally a day after Kerala’s women formed a 620-km human wall to express their support for gender justice, Bindu and Kanakadurga managed to enter the shrine.
India’s first all women SWAT team
India’s first unit of all women Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is a 36 member team that has been trained for 15 months by the National Security Guard (NSG) for anti-terrorism duty under the Delhi Police’s Special Cell. All the women officers hail from the north-eastern region of India.
Clad in blue uniform, equipped with AK-47 rifles, MP5 machine guns, and corner shot devices for enhanced night vision, this team took charge on August 15, 2018 for the security of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Red Fort. Delhi Police on August 10 introduced the team that is an expert in unarmed combat, ambush and counter ambush, urban operations with knowledge of explosives, IEDs and assault weapons.
After more than a year of rigorous training – learning to scale buildings, defuse bombs and rescue hostages, the team has been trained to undertake complex operations during terrorist attacks at crowded markets, residential complexes or government premises. These women have also been given training in Krav Maga, which is a self-defence system developed for the Israel Defence Forces.
Arunima Sinha, who became the world’s first female amputee to climb Mount Everest in 2013, has achieved yet another record. The 30 year old has now become the first female amputee to climb Mount Vinson, the highest peak of Antarctica.
A former national level volleyball player turned mountaineer, Arunima, who hails from Ambedkar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh lost one of her legs in a horrific incident. In 2011, she was thrown off the moving Padmawati Express train for resisting a chain-snatching attempt by thugs.
It was after this incident, when she was recovering, that Arunima decided to become a mountaineer and scale the highest peaks in the world. She got in touch with Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Everest in 1984, to train under her after making up her mind to be a mountaineer.
Apart from Everest, Arunima has also scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Europe, Kosciuszko in Australia, Aconcagua in Argentina and Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya) in Indonesia before this. In 2015 Arunima was conferred the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India, and she also received the Tenzing Norgay National adventure award, in the same year.
Chef Garima Arora
Founder of GAA, an avant-garde restaurant in Bangkok, she is not just the first Indian woman to receive a Michelin star but is also Asia’s best female chef.
She started her career as a journalist and then moved on to becoming a chef when she was merely 21 years old. Her love for food started when she was quite young, a by-product of growing up in a typical Punjabi food-loving household.
She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2010. In 2013, Arora applied for an internship at Noma in Copenhagen, where she worked with the legendary René Redzepi for three months. In 2016 she moved to Bangkok as sous chef to culinary legend, Gaggan Anand, at his progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan. After working there for eight months she opened her own restaurant GAA that offers a choice of a 10- or 14-course tasting menu with wine or juice pairings.
Dr Seema Rao
India’s first female combat trainer, Dr Seema Rao has trained soldiers, paramilitary and police personal and commandos. She will be receiving the Nari Shakti Puruskar 2018 from President Ram Nath Kovind on International Women’s Day. It is the highest civilian honour for exemplary women in India.
Along with husband Major Deepak Rao, Seema has so far trained more than 15,000 commandos from almost all Indian armed forces, including the NSG Black Cats, Airforce GARUD and the BSF. Even though she has an MBBS degree, the medical profession has taken a backseat for her with travel taking up almost eight months of the 12 months in a year. But when not out on training assignments, Seema likes to spend her time boxing men at her Academy of Combat Fitness in Andheri, Mumbai.