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Historic Moment: For the First Time, Indian Air Force inducts Three Women Fighter Pilots into its fighter Squadron

Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force on Saturday, June 18, at a parade in Hyderabad

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FILE - A woman poses for a photograph next to an Indian Air Force (IAF) light utility helicopter on display at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, February 18, 2015. Image source: Reuters
  • Women pilots make up about 100 of the air force’s 1,500 pilots
  • Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force 
  • These Three women fighter pilots will be trained for a year before they get to fly supersonic warplanes by next year in 2017

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted three female fighter pilots marking the first time one of the world’s largest militaries has opened the door to women in combat roles.

Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force on Saturday at a parade in Hyderabad.

It’s a huge step forward for the 1.2 million strong Indian armed forces that has trailed countries like the United States, Britain, Israel and neighboring Pakistan in allowing women into the cockpit of fighter jets.

The Indian air force could blaze the trail for the army and navy. In February 2016, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced in parliament that women will be allowed in all fighter streams of the armed forces.

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Asked about the challenges she is likely to encounter as a woman fighter pilot, Mohana Singh shrugged, “Nothing different from my male counterparts, as much as they face.”

Women pilots make up about 100 of the air force’s 1,500 pilots, but have so far served only in helicopter and transport units.

Three women pilots-Bhawana Kath, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh the newest fighter pilots of Indian Air Force who were inducted into the force on Saturday in Hyderabad. Image Courtesy: K.V.S. Giri
Three women pilots-Bhawana Kath, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh the newest fighter pilots of Indian Air Force who were inducted into the force on Saturday in Hyderabad. Image Courtesy: K.V.S. Giri

The three women fighter pilots will be trained for a year on Hawk advanced trainer jets before they get to fly supersonic warplanes by next year.

The Indian air force has called their induction a “progressive step in keeping with the aspirations of Indian women and in line with contemporary trends in armed forces of developed nations.”

But it also says the induction has been made on an “experimental basis,” which it will study for five years. Observers take that as an indication that although a step forward has been taken, gender parity will only creep in slowly in the armed forces.

For the Indian forces, women’s vulnerability if captured and the challenge of frontline deployments have been major sticking points.

Former air vice marshal Manmohan Bahadur with the Center for Air Power Studies in New Delhi told VOA the armed forced are taking a cautious approach. “So the point is: Is putting women in combat in harm’s way that has to be accepted by society. For India it has happened now, in other countries it has happened earlier,” he says.

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Part of the nudge to change attitudes towards women came from courts, which have ruled in favor of better working conditions for female officers and called on the armed forces not to block their progress. Until 2010, they were only offered temporary commissions of up to five to 10 years.  Women constitute a mere 2.5 percent of armed personnel, most of them administrators, intelligence officers, doctors and nurses.

Bahadur says the change in attitude to women in combat will happen slowly. “It is a natural tendency to shield the women. That may happen in the initial stages, but after some time, it will become a day in and day out affair and then it does not matter. So it is a gradual process that should be allowed to take place.”

The induction of the three women received huge coverage in the Indian media with newspaper headlines like “Women Fighter Pilots Break Cloud Ceiling,” and “No Sky Too High.”

Meanwhile, the female fighter pilots are excited about their pioneering role. “The only thing I would like to say is dream big and work for it. If you really wish to do something, all the ways will automatically open for you,” says newly commissioned fighter pilot, Avani Chaturvedi. (VOA)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes, these women are making their way breaking all the stereotypes. Women pilots in IAF is a great achievement by them.

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Mission of Female Empowerment, Ivanka Trump Aims at Increasing Economic Opportunities For Women

She was in the East African country to promote a $50 million initiative enacted by her father in February that is aimed at encouraging women's employment in developing countries.

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US Senior White House advisor Ivanka Trump attends a meeting as part of the African Women’s Empowerment Dialogue, on Apr. 15, 2019, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House advisor, Ivanka, is heading to the Ivory Coast to continue her four-day trip aimed at increasing economic opportunities for women in the West African region.

Ivanka Trump, who serves as advisor to her father on economic empowerment, began her trip to the region with a visit to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa Sunday, where she announced a multi-million dollar U.S. government initiative to support women entrepreneurs.

The “2X Africa” initiative announced Monday by Trump and David Bohigian, the acting head of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, aims to mobilize $1 billion and directly invest $350 million in companies and funds “owned by women, led by women,” or by “providing a good or service that intentionally empowers women on the continent.”

Donald Trump
It was not immediately clear if the controversy that surrounds the U.S. president will follow his daughter to Africa. The president has not been kind in his remarks about Africa and its migrants. VOA

Later in the day, Ivanka Trump met with President Sahle-Work Zewde. They discussed a need for reform in Africa that would lead to improved opportunity and inclusivity for women.

She also held discussions on women’s empowerment with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, commending him for increasing the number of women in leadership positions in his government.

On Sunday, Bohigian signed a “letter of interest” with an Ethiopian company called Muya to help support the company through OPIC financing. Muya, owned by fashion designer Sara Abera, produces household products and was the first Ethiopian company to obtain membership in the World Fair Trade Organization.

Trump visited Muya on Sunday after she arrived in Addis Ababa for a summit on African women’s economic inclusion and empowerment.

 

“Fundamentally, we believe that investing in women is a smart development policy and it is a smart business,” Trump said after sampling coffee at a traditional Ethiopian ceremony. “It’s also in our security interest, because women, when we’re empowered, foster peace and stability.”

White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump smiles at Azalech Tesfaye, who is the recipient of loan guarantee through USAID, as Trump meets women who work in the Ethiopian coffee industry, Sunday Apr. 14, 2019.
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump smiles at Azalech Tesfaye, who is the recipient of loan guarantee through USAID, as Trump meets women who work in the Ethiopian coffee industry, Sunday Apr. 14, 2019. VOA

Trump also laid a wreath at an Ethiopian Orthodox church to honor the victims of last month’s Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people on board.

It was not immediately clear if the controversy that surrounds the U.S. president will follow his daughter to Africa. The president has not been kind in his remarks about Africa and its migrants. (VOA)