"Women First, Prosperity for All" - Theme of eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad, attended by Indian PM Narendra Modi and Ivanka Trump, Advisor to President of U.S.
The above theme shows the impact of the growing contribution of women in every society. This era belongs to women, and their contribution is now changing the world from a male-dominated society to gender equality. In our own country, people have realized that putting a woman first will not only help in the prosperity of their family but also help to build a country with a strong foundation. While chasing this honor of becoming first, Radhika Menon created yet another benchmark in women empowerment when she became the first female merchant navy captain of India. Her story is a true personification of the growing stature of women in Indian society.
A Self-made Woman
Radhika was born and brought up in Kodungallur of Kerala. Since childhood, she used to excel in academics and extracurricular activities, and her zeal to achieve success was commendable. It was her exceptional talent and dedication that was enough for a lucrative career in any field. However, she always wanted to do something challenging and out of the box, and these desires were pushing her towards a full-time career in the maritime industry. Initially, she faced stiff resistance from her family members and relative on her decision. But she was confident of making a mark in the society by achieving things that many could only dream of. After taking her parents in confidence owing to her never give up attitude, she enrolled in the All India Marine College in Kochi. She opted for a radio course for one-and-a-half years, after completing her graduation at the age of 16 in the year 1985. It was a time when the marine industry was only suited to be man's profession with minimal scope for women. However, Radhika entered the industry with a view to change that perception and show her talent and skills to the world. She cleared the radio course with exceptional marks and became the first female radio officer in the Indian Merchant Navy.
"When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve." - Napoleon Hill
A Sail Towards Dream
Your dreams not only give the right direction but also provides a beautiful path in the journey of life. It was the same case with Radhika, who has already got her direction after becoming the first radio officer in the merchant navy under the renowned Shipping Corporation of India (SCI). And now, it was time to embrace the remaining path of success and complete her dream of becoming the master of the ship. She continued to perform exceptionally well in her service and even completed her master’s certification while gathering the relevant experience and fulfilling the criteria of serving the required time at sea till 2010. After that, she went on to pass a series of examinations to qualify for the next roles of second mate and chief mate. Her ambitious nature helped her to climb the ladder of success in a short period. All her hard work and dedication finally paid off as one of the most prestigious gifts that were enough to realize her dream into reality. She was promoted to be the captain of the Indian Merchant Navy in 2012, the first Indian woman to be awarded this post in history.
"The price of greatness is responsibility." - Winston Churchill
With high power comes great responsibility, and Radhika was always ready to perform all those responsibilities of her job with utmost sincerity and calmness. As a captain, she was given the charge of an Oil tanker known as the MT Sampurna Swarajya, which weighs about 21, 827 tons. Since the day of taking charge, she has been very proactive in handling all the responsibilities of the ship. She is also well supported by her husband, who himself was a radio officer and knew the challenging aspects of this job.
The Bravery Personified
One of the greatest achievements of Radhika and her team was to rescue seven missing fishers who were living at the mercy of the sea for the last seven days. It was during June 2015, when Oil tanker MT Sampurna Swarajya was on its regular scheduled operation. A typical fishing boat named 'Durgamma’ went through engine failure and loss of anchor during stormy weather with 60-70 Knot winds and wave height of up to 9 meters in the Bay of Bengal. Without any satellite trackers on the fishing ship, it was impossible for any fisherman to ask for help from any other vessels, and hence there was very little chance of their survival. Luckily at the same time, Captain Radhika spotted waving of the hand of someone at an approximate distance of 2.5 kilometers while she was at the bridge. She knew that it is a matter of someone's life and hence ordered a rescue operation of those seven fishermen without giving any second thoughts.
"A great success story is the only proof that you have given your dream your very best." ― Edmond Mbiaka
Although it was a tough decision to go on an open deck in such weather, Radhika made her team believe in their capabilities and guided this rescue operation from front. Her team trusted her and gave their best to save the lives of all fishermen. However, there was a time when their first attempt failed due to the strong winds and bad weather. It was again Radhika who showed her skills by stopping the engines of their ship so that boat could clear the propeller area of the tanker. On their second attempt, they successfully rescued two fishers, and then the remaining five were saved in their last effort. After recovering them all along with the 15-year-old boy, she helped them to get in contact with their family members and briefed the Shipping Corporation of India about the incident.
"Whatever action I take, it has to be perfect. Women have no room for mistakes in this profession – if anything goes wrong, people will be very unforgiving." - Captain Radhika Menon
Benchmark In Women Empowerment
Her rescue operation was really a difficult one, but the way she handles everything was remarkable. However, she believed that as a seafarer, it was her duty to save their lives, and she took all the steps after calculating all the risks involved. This rescue operation made her famous throughout the world, and she again set a record. She became the first woman in the world to receive the prestigious Exceptional Bravery at Sea award from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for her outstanding performance during a difficult rescue operation of saving seven lives. Her award not only took the capabilities of the Merchant Navy in India to the next level but also gave a push to all women who used to think that this industry is of men.
"Women are always saying. We can do anything that men can do. But men should be saying. We can do anything that women can do." - Gloria Steinem
Radhika started her own legacy by founding an International Women Seafarers Foundation (IWSF) in 2017 to help young women pursuing a career at sea. Her foundation is trying to help young female graduates who are still not given any fair chance of showcasing their talent and skills at the sea level. She is also maintaining a balance between her professional and personal life. She is residing with her husband and a 17-year-old son in Cochin and tries to sail to the nearby areas of the Indian coast. Radhika is a living legend who has not only earned worldwide fame and a significant amount of respect from the other legends like Sachin Tendulkar but also created a society where no profession is related to the gender of the person.
"We must empower women to usher in an era of gender equality in our society" ― Avijeet Das
Radhika Menon sums up the definition of a confident and educated woman who has set herself as the best example for all those people who are trying to find their real strengths. Her dedication and courage to achieve unique pillars of success provide the power to bring the best out of her. The best part of her success is that she knows how to realize her dreams into reality and marking her presence in the life of all females to take women empowerment to the next level.