Shila Dawre, the first woman auto-rickshaw driver in India, took up the profession in 1988 against the wishes of her parents, who were educated. “I left my house at the age of 18 years to become a driver. Now I feel good that there is recognition for me,” she told IANS.
If it’s an unconventional career choice today, it was unheard of back then.
Another woman breaking boundaries is Major Priya Jhingan, who in 1992, became the first woman cadet to join the army. In even less conventional fields, english literature graduate Praveena Solomon from Chennai became the first woman to manage a crematorium.
Many such stories of resilience and courage came to light at the ‘First Ladies’ event organised by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, where 112 women achievers were felicitated by President Ram Nath Kovind. These formidable women dared to walk roads traditionally not taken and made unexpected career choices, making them the first ladies in their field.
In this one-of-a-kind event, more than 90 women from different professions visited Rashtrapati Bhavan, including the first visually-challenged IFS officer in India, Beno Zephine; the first woman coffee taster, Sunalini Menon; the first woman coolie, Manju Yadav; and the first female bartender, Shatbhi Basu.
Some of the familiar names were actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (the first Indian actress to be in the jury of Cannes), Saina Nehwal, the first female badminton player in the country to win an Olympics medal, and Mary Kom, the first Indian woman boxer to bring home a medal in Asian Games.
#PresidentKovind meets a group of women achievers, who are the first to set a milestone in their respective fields, at Rashtrapati Bhavan; says progress of women is barometer for progress of any country or society pic.twitter.com/4TglZnDkBS
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 20, 2018
President Kovind said in his speech that when given an opportunity, women achieve remarkable success. He lauded the efforts of the government in empowering women, but also spoke about safety concerns, “They need to feel secure in public places, and this should be a matter of concern for all of us. Along with the government, it is the responsibility of every section of society,” PTI reported.
The ‘First Ladies’ event was part of the Ministry’s initiative to recognise women who have achieved remarkable feats in the country. The research to come up with the name had taken more than a year. “We looked for the women who are first in their profession and collected these names from different sources,” Maneka Gandhi, the minister of women and child development, quoted to IANS.
Hats off to the women who made difficult choices and stuck by their decisions. You truly inspire us.
You can watch the full event here.