Gender bias has been prevalent in the world since ages, including in India, where women were expected to be homemakers first. But often, brave women have dared to go beyond the obvious and created a history. These women, breaking all the barriers of societal biases, took up those tasks and professions which were once considered to be a man’s prerogative. Here’s a brief account of some noteworthy Indian women who were pioneers in their fields.
Fatima Begum – Pehli Indian woman film director
It wasn’t a commonplace in the 90s to include women as part of the crew in the Indian film Industry. But Fatima Begum, who was an Urdu play stage artist back then, began her directorial career with the film Bulbul-e-Paristan in 1926; eventually giving her the title of first Indian woman director. Born in a Muslim family in 1892, she later set up her production company, Fatma Films Corporation later known as Victoria-Fatma films and directed some prominent films like Goddess of Love (1927), Heer Ranjha (1928), Chandrawali (1928), Shakuntala(1929), Kanaktara (1929) and Goddess of Luck (1929). Other than a director, she was also a prominent actress, script writer. She passed away in 1983 at the age of 91 with such a great record in her name.
Fathima Beevi – Pehli Indian woman Supreme Court Judge
Justice Fathima Beevi became the first woman judge in Indian Supreme Court in 1989. Born to Meera Sahib and Khadeeja Bibi on 30th April 1927 at Pathananthitta in Kerala, she built up her career with a Bachelors Degree in Law. After continuing her professional pursuits as an advocate (1950), district and sessions judge (1974), High Court judge (1983), she was finally appointed as a Judge of Supreme Court on 6th October 1989. After retiring from this post on 29th April 1992, she was appointed as the Governor of Tamil Nadu in 1997, which she served till 2001.
Radhika Menon – Pehli Indian woman Navy Captain
IMO Bravery Award Winner in 2016, Radhika Menon is the first merchant navy captain of India who created history in the industry. International Maritime Organisation (IMO) awarded her with this honour for her brave act of saving seven fishermen from sinking fishing boat in Bay of Bengal. Today, she lives with her family in Cochin, Kerala.
Sushmita Sen – Pehli Indian Miss Universe
Well-known and versatile Indian actress Sushmita Sen had secured the world recognition of Miss Universe on 21st May 1994 at the contest held in Manila, Philippines. She achieved this when she was only 19 years old, with her charm and confident attitude. Her final answer at the Miss Universe contest to the question ‘What is the essence of a woman’, which was extremely inspiration and unique, is believed to have won her this success. After completing her reign, she went on to pursue a career in Bollywood and rose to stardom.
Harshini Kanhekar – Pehli Indian woman Firefighter
Emergency services has been an industry favoured by men. Harshini Kanhekar took up the Fire Engineering course in 2002 from National Fire Service College in Nagpur, Maharashtra and proved that even women are capable and brave enough to beat fire. This 26-year-old brave-heart woman was appointed as a fire engineer at the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, making her the first Indian woman in this field.
Hetal Dave – Pehli Indian woman Sumo Wrestler
Sumo wrestling, originated in Japan, is a full contact fighting game that requires ample of strength and skills. Hetal Dave became the first Indian woman to be a Sumo wrestler when she participated in the 2008 Sumo Wrestling World Championship held in Estonia. Immense support by her father Dave Sudhir, her training partner at home Akshay Dave (her brother) and her well-experienced trainer Cawas Billimoria stood as her cornerstones. She is an enthusiastic wrestler with an eye for participating in tournaments, despite facing several hurdles. She has participated in many other events like the World Games in 2009 held in Taiwan.
Watch the 8-part mini-series on EPIC TV Channel, Pehli that will bring to life the efforts of 26 such dynamic women including Fearless Nadia aka Mary Evans the ‘Pehli’ stuntwoman of Indian Cinema, Flight Lt. Harita Kaur Deol the first woman pilot to fly solo in our Army and India’s first Nobel Prize Laureate Mother Teresa among many more.