Monday, 22 August 2016
'On 21 November 2016 Radhika Menon will become the first woman to receive the 2016 International Maritime Organisation Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, it was announced on July 10.Here are some extracts from the internet coverage:
"I am humbled, honoured and grateful. It is a maritime obligation to save souls in distress at sea and, as a seafarer and master in command of my ship, I just did my duty," she said in an email quoted by The Times Of India.
'Born and raised in Kerala’s Kodungallur, Captain Radhika Menon did a one-and-a-half year radio course at the All India Marine College in Kochi before she became a radio officer in the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), which was also a stellar first, as far as the SCI’s track record with women officers goes.
'By 2012, she ascended up the rungs, with persistent studying and clearing of the required exams for the posts of second mate and chief mate, served out her hours at sea required to appear for the master’s certificate, which she cleared in 2010.
'By 2012, she historically became the first woman captain of the country to take charge of a Merchant Navy ship – the MT Suvarna Swarajya.
THE HEROIC RESCUE
'"Captain Menon was nominated by the Government of India for the rescue of all seven fishermen from the fishing boat Durgamma, which was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather," a government of India statement said. Seas were tumultuous in the Bay of Bengal. Food and water had been washed away and the men were surviving on ice from the ship's cold storage.
'"Through wave heights of more than 25 feet, winds of more than 60 knots and heavy rain, on 22 June, the second officer on the Sampurna Swarajya spotted the boat 2.5 kilometres away, off the coast of Gopalpur, Odisha. Captain Menon immediately ordered a rescue operation, utilising the pilot ladder and with life jackets and buoys on standby," it added.
'It took three arduous attempts in the lashing wind and rain and heavy swells before all seven weak and starving fishermen, aged from 15 to 50 years old, were brought to safety on board the ship.'
The IMO is the UN agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. It has long had an excellent record in combating gender discrimination. When the IMO Council met last month in London it endorsed the judges' decision that Captain Menon displayed 'great determination and courage in leading the difficult rescue operation.'
WOMEN'S HEROISM AT SEA IN THE PAST
Knowing something about the (poor) history of UK awards made to maritime women, it seems to me that it is wonderful that Radhika's achievement is being properly recognised. So readily too.
In the past, many women have been brave at sea. For example, they've selflessly given their life jackets to save others' lives, and lost their own life in the process.
Yet few deserving women have been given awards for meritous feats. Sometimes their feats were covered up, as in Wren Audrey Coningham Roche's case in WW2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/4528417/Audrey-Roche.html.
It's as if some men feared that their own feats of bravery would be somehow diminished if it was seen that women, too, could be lion-hearted, cool-headed and nobly self-sacrificing.
Conversely, also, women were patronisingly feted for their actions, as if it was unusual that women could display any courage at all.
Because women have only recently been allowed to be captains, and only rarely allowed near danger (in the armed forces) there have not yet been many in a position to lead such rescue operations, as Radhika did.
Captain Menon's award really is an important first. I'm sure it will be the first of many to women captains.