Change is understood better in action than words. While it is about time for people to stop believing that men alone can be suited up in uniforms and serve the country, the talk is now converted into action.
Over the last couple of years, Indian women have shattered the glass ceiling by joining the armed forces – Indian Army, Navy, and the Air Force - to serve the country.
While the role of women in the armed forces was limited to medical profession, along the way, the Indian armed forces have had to bend the norm and accommodate women’s might and passion, signalling a radical move towards gender parity in one of the world’s most male-dominated professions.
Among the many firsts, India saw women bag the Sword of Honour, ride fighter jets, and markedly venture into warzones way before they were commissioned as fighter pilots in 1999.
Further, the Indian army streamlined a process to induct women as jawans in the Army in May 2019, and later a hundred women were inducted. Today, more women can be seen leading Army contingents on various occasions such as the Army Day and Republic Day.
Let’s take a look at some of the women who are beating their own path and not giving in to patriarchal norms.
Shivangi Swaroop made headlines in November 2019, when she became the first woman pilot of the Indian Navy. Upon the completion of her training at the Southern Naval Command in Kochi, she became the first Indian woman authorised to fly a Dornier aircraft.
A graduate from Manipal Institute of Technology in Sikkim, she was inducted into the Indian Navy on Short Service Commission (SSC) as a pilot as part of the 27 NOC course in Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala.
Growing up in Muzzafarpur, Bihar, Shivangi said that her father, who was a government school Principal, and her mother, a homemaker, were supportive of her joining the armed force.
Flight lieutenant Bhawana Kanth was the first woman fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force. In May 2019 She completed Day Operational syllabus on MiG-21 Bison aircraft to qualify to undertake missions by day on a fighter aircraft.
Hailing from Barauni in Bihar, Bhavana was always keen on joining the National Defence Academy, but women were not inducted in the programme. Therefore, she pursued engineering in Medical Electronics from Bengaluru, and was recruited by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in 2014. Her father too is an electrical engineer.
Regardless, she sat for the UPSC Combined Defence Services competitive examination and got selected to be commissioned into the first batch of women fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force. In July 2016, Bhavana, along with Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, was commissioned as flying officers.
Sky has been the limit for flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi, who became the first Indian woman to fly supersonic jetfighter when she took a solo flight in a MiG-21 in 2018.
Before this, Avani and her cohorts Bhavana Kanth and Mohana Singh made headlines to become the first three female fighter pilots, and got formally commissioned by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in June 2016.
Hailing from Reva district of Madhya Pradesh, Avani completed her BTech from Banasthali University, and chose aviation as an additional discipline at the campus aviation school. She was later trained at Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Hyderabad. A pioneer in her field and an inspirational figure, she was also featured in video advertisements of the Indian Air Force.
Divya Ajith Kumar
Officer Divya Ajith Kumar of corps of Army Air Defence believes that gender equality has come a long way.
The Chennai-born officer became the first woman to go down in the history of Indian Army by becoming the first Lady Cadet to be conferred with the coveted Sword of Honour, which is awarded to the best cadet during their training course. Divya was presented with the honour at the Republic Day parade in 2008.
After completing BCom from Stella Marris College, Chennai, she joined the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and then the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai. Later, Divya led the first all-women contingent of the Army on Republic Day in 2015 when former US President Barack Obama was the chief guest.
Divya was the only women among 800 to 900 men during her first posting in North India, and now teaches at Officers Training Academy in Chennai.
Gunjan Saxena and Srividya Rajan
Flight lieutenants Gunjan Saxena and Srividya Rajan went beyond the call of their duty and scripted history by entering the Kargil war zone for casualty evacuations.
At a time when women were not commissioned as fighter pilots, Gunjan and Srividya flew Cheetah helicopters into the area where Pakistani soldiers were reportedly firing bullets and missiles at any sight of Indian helicopter or aircraft.
In 1994, the duo was among the 25 young women who formed the first batch of women IAF trainee pilots. Gunjan had told media that being able to save lives during the war was the best feeling.
Inspired by her bravery, Bollywood has now made a biopic starring Janhvi Kapoor, which is slated for release in March 2020.
After completing her graduation from Delhi University's Hansraj College, Gunjan followed the footsteps of her father and brother and joined the armed forces.
Gunjan was also the first woman to be bestowed with the Shaurya Chakra for her courage during the Kargil war.