Sisters are doin’ it for themselves: Meet India’s all-woman crews

A naval all-woman crew led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi is now in Goa training for a 2017 mission to circumnavigate the world. The team, composed of Lieutenant Vijaya Devi (education branch), Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi (naval architecture), Lieutenant Pratibha Jamwal (Air Traffic Control), Lieutenant P Swathi (ATC) and Lieutenant Payal Gupta (education branch) are on the Indian Navy’s prized INSV Mhadei, the first ocean-going boat with an all-woman crew.

Over the last year or so, we’ve been flooded with news about all-women crews and ventures, some temporary to celebrate or commemorate an event, some permanent. Here’s a list in case you missed any.

Flight Mode On: This year, in honour of International Women’s Day, an all-woman crew from captains to co-pilots to cabin crew to check-in and ground-handling staff, operated an Air India flight from New Delhi to San Francisco – the world’s longest continuous flight. It took off from Delhi on March 6 and landed in San Francisco the following day; on March 8, the crew headed back to Delhi. On social media, it trended with the hashtag #AISalutesWomen. Captains Kshamta Bajpayee and Shubhangi Singh commanded the flight.

all-woman crew of Air India flight from New Delhi

Air India’s all-woman crew just before taking off (Picture Credit: nbcnewyork.com)

Similarly, Spicejet organised a ‘Women Of Substance’ all-woman flight that flew 20 women from the hinterlands of India to Bengaluru. Selected by former IPS officer and now Puducherry governor Kiran Bedi’s India Vision Foundation and Navjyoti India Foundation, these rural “women of substance” exemplified an indomitable spirit, having faced violence, social obstacles and in some cases even imprisonment while making their way through life. Spicejet flew all-women crews that day on 10 flights.

Also read: Kolkata jail to open coffee shop managed by women inmates

all-woman crew of SpiceJet-WomensDay

Spicejet’s ‘Women Of Substance’ all-women flight (Pictuer Credit:Topyaps.com)

Banking Mutually: Bharatiya Mahila Bank, the country’s first all-woman bank chain, recently opened its 95th branch in its quest to provide loans and financial services to women. It was inaugurated in Mumbai in 2013, making India the third country in the world with a bank especially for women, after Pakistan and Tanzania. Staffed by a team of women professionals, it caters to the needs of all women whether salaried or not.

all-woman crew - Bharatiya Mahila Bank

Bharatiya Mahila Bank, India’s first all-woman bank chain (Picture Credit: indianexpress.com)

Axis Bank’s first all-woman branch in Patna was a milestone for the organisation. SBI also has an all-woman branch in Indiranagar, Bangalore, as does Bank of Baroda in Chandigarh. These banks emphasise funding for skills developments. Their banking products are designed to give a slight concession on loan rates to women without compromising RBI rules.

Girls in Gas Stations:

all-woman crew - women petrol pump

HP’s all-woman gas station in Lucknow (Picture Credit: Maeeshat.in)

On International Women’s Day, Hindustan Petroleum (HP) launched an all-woman gas station in Lucknow. ‘Shakti Filling Station’, as the petrol pump is named, has two fuel discharge units to serve women customers only. The petrol pump also has a special room for women’s facilities including clean toilets, a changing room, and a small rest room. But this is not the first of its kind. The first all-woman petrol pump was established in New Delhi in 2005, headed, managed and run by women who did everything from filling gas to checking tyre pressure. Employing women only gave the pump a 300% jump in profits, and despite having to deal with some MCPs, these ladies carried on.

Also read: Dear World Bank: What are ‘suitable’ job opportunities for women?

Steering Success:

all-woman crew -cab company

Viira cabs – Mumbai’s all-female cab company (Picture Credit: Rediff.com)

In Mumbai, Viira Cabs founded by activist Preeti Sharma Menon employs only female drivers who are trained in martial arts, giving women commuters the freedom to travel without fear of harassment or violence. The idea came to Menon when the Nirbhaya rape case was reported in Delhi in December 2012. To keep the job risk free for its women employees, Viira Cabs provides its drivers with pepper spray and knives, and they are trained in martial arts for their own and their customers’ protection. Other women-only cab companies include Delhi’s Sakha Consulting Wings, the Pink Rickshaw Company in Pakistan, and Womencabs.com in Bangalore.

Guarding Us All:

all-woman crew - police station

Panipat’s all-woman police station (Picture Credit: Hindustantimes.com)

Last August, Haryana launched its 21st all-woman police station, in Gurgaon, dedicated to fight against dowry and domestic violence.

Food Gangs:

all-woman crew - subway women

Subway launched an all-woman outlet in Andheri, Mumbai (Picture Credit: Newsnation.in)

Sandwich chain Subway was launched in India in 2001, and plans to open its 1,000th outlet in 2018. Ahead of International Women’s day on March 8, the company opened an all-woman operated outlet in Andheri, Mumbai.

Mounting Everest:

all-woman crew - MT Everest Expedition 2011

The Indian Air Force’s 11-member all-woman team climbed Mount Everest in 2011 (Picture Credit: Indianairforce.nic.in)

India cheered when the Indian Air Force’s 11-member all-woman team made it to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, in May 2011. A day before the entire team climbed to the top of the world, three officers, led Nirupama Pandey, Rajika Sharma and Nevidita Choudhary, scaled the peak and made history.

Also read: In 2016, the IAF is attracting more women in comparison with army and navy

Aye Aye, Captain:

India's first all-women crew sailers

India’s first all-woman crew set to sail around the world (Photo: Rediff.com)

Meet the Navy crew we opened this piece with.

Post Office Women:

All Women Post office Staff Sinjgamai

The all-woman post office (Photo: Respectwomen.co.in)

The first all-woman post office was inaugurated in Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi on International Women’s Day in 2013, inspiring states like Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal to do the same. Women manage all operations in these units, including money deposits, and these branches are known to be among India Posts’ most efficient.

Truly, there is nothing that women can’t do.

Feature Image Credit: bizjournals.com

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