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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Last August, Haryana launched its 21st all-woman police station, in Gurgaon, dedicated to fight against dowry and domestic violence.
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.
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.
Aye Aye, Captain:
Meet the Navy crew we opened this piece with.
Post Office Women:
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