India’s First Woman Merchant Navy Officer Addresses KMA Women Managers’ Forum

KMA Women Managers’ Forum

Kochi: Captain Radhika Menon, the country’s first woman merchant navy officer, addressing the Women Managers’ Forum organised by Kerala Management Association (KMA), stressed the need for determination and leadership among women to overcome hurdles in life as well as career.

Themed ‘Braving the Odds’, the event was organised to celebrate women’s success stories. Radhika and noted social activist Uma Preman were the keynote speakers. During her address, Radhika recollected her days in the Merchant Navy, which is generally considered a male bastion, sharing numerous experiences and learnings which were inspiring for the audience.

“I was determined about doing only what I wanted to do and didn’t choose to be like a normal woman,” she said. Gender stereotypes were at their peak and several obstacles were placed before her. “At first, nobody was there, even family members, to support me when I chose this profession. Most of the Maritime Colleges rejected my application just because I am a woman,” said Radhika.

She began her seafaring career as a radio officer with Shipping Corporation of India but then she wanted to become a navigator. In 2011, she created history by becoming the first female captain in Indian Merchant Navy by taking charge of Mt Sampurna Swarajya. Capt. Menon is the first and the only woman so far to be awarded by the International Maritime Organisation for her exceptional bravery in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking boat.

“We got these fellows on the 22nd of a month and they were missing since the 16th. When they called home, it was the right time, because their families were preparing for the funeral. Fishermen have a belief that if they go missing in sea for seven days, they can be considered dead. As soon as the calls were received, the funeral prayers were stopped,” Radhika recalled. She saved not just seven men, but seven families.

With a spark of humanity inherited from her father, Uma Preman has become a good-hearted soul who does for others much more than what a human being normally could. She believes that battling tough times strengthened the fighter in her. Being in the path of selfless service, she shared her experiences which deeply touched the audience at the KMA event. By donating one of her kidneys to a complete stranger at a very young age, Uma proved her commitment and dedication to her fellow beings. “When I say that all Indians are my brothers and sisters, I really mean it,” she said.

Uma travelled alone all over India and collected detailed information on medical facilities, experts on specific medical fields, medical grants and government health aid to the poor. After that, in 1997, she founded the Santhi Medical Information Centre as a charitable trust in Thrissur district of Kerala. Kidney transplants for 680 patients, heart surgeries for 20,500 patients and two lakh dialysis procedures are a few of her contributions through the trust. She has been bestowed with many awards, including ‘Vanitha Woman of the Year’ in 2015, ‘Asianet Sthree Shakthi Puraskar 2014’ and CNN’s ‘Real Hero Award.’

Maria Abraham, Chairperson of KMA Women Managers’ Forum; Vivek Krishna Govind, President, KMA and R Madhav Chandran, Honorary Secretary were present at the event.