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Aspirants for Maritime Industry career be positive, tough, inquisitive, and motivated: Capt. Radhika Menon

BSN brings you the story of the Capt. Radhika Menon a woman who boldly walked the path where no woman had dared to walk before. A resident Kodungallur in Kerala, she became the first woman to captain a ship of the Indian Merchant Navy. She did a 6 month radio officer course at the All IndiaMarine College in Kochi before she became a radio officer in Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), and became the first woman to do so in India. What's more she became the First Woman in the World to Win IMO's Bravery at Sea Award.

On the occasion of World Maritime Day BSN chose to create awareness about brave world that exists beyond the mundane for women through the story of Capt. Radhika Menon. In an interview to BSN Capt. Radhika Menon shared her trials, tribulations and her adventures and how she made a mark for herself as a seafarer.

Speaking about what motivated her to take up a career that is believed to be a male domain Capt.Radhika Menon said "I was never interested in completing graduation and doing a nine to five office job." Speaking about how she ended up doing a Radio Officers course and taking up shipping career she said "After completing 11th, I appeared for entrance to Tool and Die Making course and got selected, I was the only girl to do so, a fact not acceptable to my father. This forced me to quit the course". As fate would have it "while waiting for regular college admissions, which had closed by then, I came across this Radio Officers course. My parents permitted me to join this course just till the time of regular college admissions as the radio officers course part-I was only of 6 months.

Speaking about the reactions of people on completing the course she said "After the COP results were out, before I knew it, people around were speaking about me being the first lady Radio Officer, which was also reported in news papers." "My parents' friends, close relatives and neighbourhood people convinced them to let me continue with my unconventional choice. However, later my family supported me all the way." 

She added "Frankly I was never apprehensive about this profession being male dominated. Probably this ignorance was my strength."

Talking of adversities faced by a woman as a shipping professional Capt. Radhika Menon stressed on importance of hard work and dedication. She said "Well, I had adversities as would any other professional have. In my profession too there are tough times which can be overcome with hard work and dedication. There is no substitute to that. In seafaring every officer or crew has a specific job to do and that is gender neutral which means you would not be allowed any concession because you are women. Every seafarer needs to prove his or her mettle. For me every challenge and difficulty has only strengthened my confidence and helped me in overcoming them." 

Talking about employment equality for males and females in this sector Capt. Menon opined "except teaching profession where it has been accepted as a norm, women have to deal with increased scrutiny in every profession and shipping is no exception." She added "It's not an industry specific issue, the real challenge is to change the mindset of the society, family and people around you. I am glad that things are moving in that direction."

Speaking of Maritime careers for women she agreed that they are welcomed these days as compared to earlier period. However she added "women seafarers, as far as I know, were never discouraged from taking up employment at sea by their potential employers. It's the change in perception which has led to more women joining this profession." She said "IMO also adopted a declaration of intent towards the development of a Global Strategy for Women in 2013 with an aim to integrate women into maritime sector. Many women from India also have taken up seafaring as a profession. Guess all these factors are showing results."

Talking of failure, success and tough times Capt. Radhika Menon said "I have never been afraid of failure, but yes, I wish to succeed every time. Having said that, one should also accept the fact that in life things won't always go the way you want. For me, the option of giving up never crossed my mind." She stressed that "Your own attitude and family support would shape the way you deal with tough times."

Asked about her accomplishments and satisfying moments Capt. Menon said "I have been credited with many firsts in seafaring profession and I cherish all of them. Be it being the first radio female officer or being the first women captain. Each of my professional highs have been dear to me. As a human being though, heading a team involved in saving life is something that has been overwhelmingly satisfying. 

Asked about her role model in her profession she averred "Being the first one, unlike other professions, I didn't have a role model in seafaring to emulate. Neither did I have anyone in my family who had a seafaring background. It was a chance opening for Radio officer which I applied for because I didn't want to do the routine courses that were available after schooling. Once I joined sea, I wanted to achieve my goals one at a time. So I would say its destiny."

Capt Menon stressed on the need for changing social and cultural perception when asked about the dismal, 2 percent representation of women in total workforce, and what can be done about this. She said "IMO is actively involved in encouraging women seafarers to join this Industry whether ashore or on board ships. Be it providing career development opportunities or the training facilities required. Above all what needs to change is the social and cultural perception." She added "I hope with increased thrust from all the industry stakeholders, awareness of seafaring as a profession for women is increasing." On optimistic note she said "So I think things are moving in a direction where you would see increased representation of women seafarers."

Underscoring the importance of mentoring in Maritime industry particularly for lady seafarers she said "Yes mentoring is important part especially in context of cultural connect to women taking up this profession." She added "I am not aware of any industry specific mentoring. But yes, there are many women seafarers in India now and we all do the mentoring in our own small way."

Asked about her one best piece of advice for young man or woman who is considering entering the maritime industry Capt. Menon said "Yes you phrased the question right 'advice for young man or woman'. My advice to all the aspirants would be to be positive and tough. Life at sea is not all sightseeing. Its hard work! Stay inquisitive, stay motivated and you would succeed."

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