Firefighting has always been a man’s job in India. But Harshini Kanhekar broke into this male-dominated field and became the first woman firefighter in India
Until two decades back, Firefighting has always been a man’s job in India. But Harshini Kanhekar from Nagpur broke into this male-dominated field and became the first woman firefighter in India. For the past 20 years, Harshini has been bravely playing with fire.
Harshini recalls that she was not a good student in school but had been keen on extracurricular activities. She wanted to be in the armed forces, and when in college she was part of the National Cadets Corps. She did try to pursue an MBA but soon gave it up because it was not her calling. She wanted to wear a uniform and so, she took a chance and applied to the Fire engineering course. She did not even imagine that she will get in. But she did. Like this Harshini Kanhekar became the first female student at the National Fire Service College in Nagpur. At that time, she was the only girl student at the NFSC.
Fighting fire is not an easy job. This required Harshini to tame powerful water suction hoses and stay away from their home area for months while she was on rescue missions. But she won against all the hardships. Her first assignment was a cylinder blast in Shirdi when she was in college. Later she would participate in all sorts of rescue missions including floods, building collapses, river swellings and wildlife attacks. Before joining ONGC in 2006, and eventually becoming the Sr. fire officer, she dealt with several fires across Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.
Harshini is a perfect example of a powerful woman. She is not only an inspiration to all the women who want to pursue this noble profession but also a strong symbol of breaking stereotypes. She secured her space in a male-dominated world and proved to the world that women can also handle jobs like firefighting.