Soaring the skies, sailing the seas
Patriarchal rules and norms stay on for so long, sometimes, that they become facts, till someone decides to stand up and put things in perspective. The idea that a woman might want to join the Merchant Navy, or get trained as a pilot, was an absurd notion, not just for the men, but also for most women. But the times and tides are changing. Breaking barriers and proving the outdated norms to be faulty, more women are beginning to show their interest and entering male-dominated sectors of work.
Sonali Banerjee, in 2001, had become the first woman in India to qualify as an officer of the Merchant Navy. She had finished her graduation at the Marine Engineering Research Institute, and armed with the degree, she had worked for the oil tankers of Exxon-Mobil before she decided to scale another mountain, and become a Merchant Navy officer. The notion of a woman joining the Merchant Navy is considered to be absurd by the majority of the population all over the world. But Sonali’s experience shines out as a beacon of hope for anyone who would like to follow her footsteps.
The idea might be considered absurd, the field might be wholly male-dominated, but the provisions for becoming an officer of the Merchant Navy are always there. One simply has to reach out and grab these opportunities in order to change these so-called fixities. With Sonali’s triumph, our country has also rejoiced, since it has become a part of the group of very select countries which allow women to sail the seas as a Merchant Navy officer. If interested, one can apply right after graduation. The age limit is 21-29 years, and in order to train as a Merchant Navy officer, one needs to sit for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) entrance exam, which needs to be cleared with the due marks.
While there is slow and steady growth of the number of women aspiring to become Merchant Navy officers, the growth of the number of women interested in becoming pilots is far greater. There are already quite a few women who have worked against the odds to become pilots in the country. The idea that only men can commandeer and steer flights is widely contested, and thankfully, has been proven wrong by all the women who are taking charge.
The International Society of Women Airline Pilots show figures which prove that women pilots are growing world-over, but especially in India, where the percentage has extended to an optimistic 11 percent. In Fact, there is also a specific organization called the IWPA, or India’s Women Pilot Association. Such an organization hints at the growing representation of women in such sectors.
There is about to be opposition, but the availability of the golden opportunities make this a fertile ground for more women to stand up and take action by making the gender bias in such occupations, a mere myth.