It was a gold-star moment for India when an all-woman crew operated the world’s longest, continuous Air India flight on International Women’s Day. The initiative won global recognition. But little did the world know that this was only one of India’s many steps in empowering its women.
On March 8, the social media was abuzz with photographs of Air India’s all-woman crew who operated the flight from New Delhi to San Francisco. The hashtag #AISalutesWomen was trending everywhere. For Air India, this was a big step towards women’s empowerment.
The entire flight operation — from pilots Kshamta Bajpayee and Shubhangi Singh and their co-pilots to the cabin crew, check-in staff and ground handling staff — was handled by women.
The country’s budget airline Spice Jet too imitated the initiative. Spice Jet flew 10 flights with an all-woman crew on the same day and the response was tremendous.
While these certainly are proud moments for India, there are many such empowerment initiatives, which aren’t in the limelight.
Gas stations powered by girls
Hindustan Petroleum (HP), for instance, launched an all-woman gas station in Lucknow on Women’s Day.
Shakti Fuel Retail Service Station has two fuel islands exclusively for lady customers, reported Petroworld, on its website. This gas station has a dedicated room for women with facilities, such as clean toilets, a changing room, and a small rest room. But this is not the first all-woman’s gas station in India. The first one was set up in New Delhi way back in 2005.
Over 30 women were employed and they carried out all the work on their own — from filling gas to checking tyre pressure.
According to a BBC report, after employing women, the gas station saw a 300% jump in profits. While some believed that women were more efficient and honest, others remarked that being a gas station attendant was a man’s job.
Some were rude, but these women continued to do their job and were successful.
The Indian state of Haryana has 21 police stations run by women police officers.
The all-woman police station in Gurgaon, which opened doors in August last year, has been handling an unprecedented number of complaints, primarily related to dowry and domestic violence.
The victims, who earlier felt intimidated to talk about their predicament to male officers, are now more open to sharing their woes with the women officers.
Soon after commencing operations, the police station made headway with the case of a 20-year-old girl, who was repeatedly raped and blackmailed by her tutor.
Conquerors of Mount Everest
Another remarkable achievement that made India proud was when the Indian Air Force’s 11-member team — all women — climbed Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in May 2011.
“Squadron leader Nirupama Pandey and flight lieutenant Rajika Sharma reached the summit of the Mt Everest, forming the first three women IAF officers, together with flight lieutenant Nevidita Choudhary, who scaled the peak a day earlier to create history,” reported Zee News.
Stamp of success
The first all-woman post office was started in Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi on International Women’s Day in 2013. Since then many states in India, namely Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, have been running their all-woman post offices efficiently.
Women have been taking care of all the functions — giving out stamps, keeping track of computerized transactions and handling post office money deposits. The all-woman post offices have been well received in India and are known for their efficiency.
Progress in banking
Bharatiya Mahila Bank was inaugurated in Mumbai in 2013. The bank later expanded its operations across all major states in India. Besides, it has also established branches in rural areas. In three years, the bank managed to establish 95 branches.
While the bank targets the entire pyramid of Indian women, its primary focus is on deprived, discriminated, underbanked, unbanked, economically neglected rural and urban women. This is to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. The bank, with a team of professionals with rich experience and expertise, has designed and developed new products and services to suit the needs of women of all segments, including self-help groups, women entrepreneurs, salaried women, and corporates.
Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com
The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.
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