During Women’s History Month, women such as Susan B. Anthony, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Rosa Parks grace our feed, and rightly so, since they have made immense strides for women’s rights. However, there are also so many other women whose stories are overlooked. This blog post is a part of a series that serves to spotlight heroic women who may not be household names but have worked diligently to advance the women’s rights movement. This Women’s History Month, we recognize Dr. Kiran Bedi, the first woman to join the Indian police force.
Dr. Kiran Bedi was born on June 9, 1949, in Amritsar, Punjab. She grew up with a great tennis player as a father, and his love for tennis was passed down to her as well. Her father would personally train Bedi and her sister and instilled a sense of perseverance in them.
“Life is on an incline, either you go up or you come down.” Bedi’s dad used to say this to her as they traveled to matches around India and won tournaments–including matches against other boys. Her childhood and her dedication to playing tennis played a key role in Bedi's journey to becoming the first Indian woman in the Police Academy.
However, joining the National Police Academy was no easy feat, even for a woman as determined as Kiran Bedi. There were many who discouraged Bedi from joining the police service, including India’s then-Home Secretary KC Pant. But Bedi persevered. With her ambition and experience dominating a predominantly male sport, who was to tell her no?
When joining the Police Academy, Bedi did not want to be treated differently because she was a woman. When asked if she wanted a different uniform or training than the men, she refused. The other officers looked up to her and saw her as serious competition, considering that she beat them in multiple marathons, training games, etc.
Bedi was also the first woman to lead an all-male contingent of soldiers in the Republic Day Parade. Despite her rank as the senior-most probationer, a lower-ranked male officer was initially chosen to lead. However, Bedi protested, proclaiming that she was equally trained and could lead the parade. When she was permitted to lead, she practiced marching with a sword in her hand for 14 kilometers per day, and her efforts even caught the attention of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Bedi’s list of accomplishments doesn’t stop there. From winning the President’s Gallantry Medal in 1979 to becoming the first woman to be appointed as the UN Civilian Police Advisor, she has shattered the glass ceiling. Kiran Bedi saw the challenges and hurdles that she needed to overcome, and instead of backing down, she fought back with strength and grace. Her ambition and dedication have inspired young girls around the globe to pursue their goals, no matter how big or threatening they may seem.
Learning the stories of women like Kiran Bedi highlights their legacies for women’s rights. They have helped advance women’s rights to new heights and have achieved excellence in male-dominated fields. Their stories remind us that their impact is everlasting.