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‘Only Competence Matters’: Indian Army’s Seniormost Woman Officer

Being the seniormost woman officer in the Indian Army is no easy feat – meet Lieutenant General Madhuri Kanitkar.

Updated
Gender
2 min read

Video Editors: Sandeep Suman, Deepthi Ramdas

Camera: Shiv Kumar

Being the seniormost woman officer in the Indian Army is no easy feat. Lieutenant General Madhuri Kanitkar is only the third woman to attain this position.

Her voice reverberated with “How’s the Josh?!” in the NCC auditorium, brimming with officers of the armed forces who had gathered to watch National Geographic’s special film – ‘Women of Honour : Destination Army.’

The film, also currently streaming on Hotstar, follows two women cadets who are undergoing rigorous training at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai.

“If every girl dreamt that she wants to join the army and grew up with that dream in her mind, whether she finally lands up or not, half the battle would have been won and the country would be amazing,” she told The Quint, on the sidelines of the screening.

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While she has served the army for almost 40 years, Lt Gen Kanitkar’s favorite memory remains the same.

“My most favorite memory was the first day I wore my uniform. Ours was the first batch that had a passing out parade. This was on 27 December 1982. It was an amazing feeling to have that time... just two stars on the shoulder. But you suddenly felt elevated and different.” 
Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar

Who Is the Woman Behind the Uniform?

Lt Gen Kanitkar describes herself as a woman with a strong heart, someone who can balance multiple roles and most importantly, a person who makes time for herself.

“The first and foremost is a woman who has a strong heart. This is not a woman who will be bogged down by difficulties, who knows how to rise. If there is a tough thing, if she falls, she will just get up and continue.”  
Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar

“But at the same time, there’s also a woman – a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife. That aspect is also there. And third is a person who is a professional but also has time for herself, to keep her fit in mind and body and follow her hobbies,” she added.

Myths About Being a Woman in the Army

She said that there is a general perception that it is difficult for women to manage in the army and there must be “something different.”

“But when you actually join, it is your competence that matters. I don’t think gender makes such a difference once you join. As an organisation, there is no difference made between men and women. You are competent or you are not competent.”
Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar

Another myth about joining the army, she says, is that everyone assumes you will fight at the border from day one.

“Everyone thought I was immediately going to the border and will just start fighting the enemies. It is not that. That is not the only aspect. You are leading men, you are leading a team, there is so much more you are doing, as a professional,” she added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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