Kiran Bedi

Let’s dive straight into Kiran Bedi – the first woman to join the Indian police force.

Here is a quick summary of Kiran’s life:

  • Kiran was one of four daughters.
  • Growing up, her father disobeyed traditional expectation and educated all four daughters.
  • She has an undergraduate degree in English, a master’s degree in political science, a law degree and a Ph.D. in social science (focus: drug abuse, domestic violence).
  • Kiran was a professional tennis player (winning Delhi’s first ever women’s festival sports title in 1975)
  • In 1972 Kiran became the first female police officer in India.
  • Kiran was sent to work in the prison system and used this as an opportunity to introduce a volunteer education program, including a meditation program.
  • In 2003 Kiran was appointed to the United Nations as a civilian police advisor.
  • Kiran has been awarded the President’s Gallantry Award (1979), the Asia region award for Drug Prevention and Control (1991), the Magsaysay Award for government service (1994), the Joseph Beuys Award (1997), the Mother Teresa Memorial National Award for Social Justice (2005) and the Serge Soitiroff Memorial Award for drug abuse prevention by the United Nations.

You can listen to a fantastic TedTalk by Kiran here (you may be picking up that I do love a good TedTalk – I am always happy to take suggestions!). In the talk, Kiran speaks about her approach to policing and how influential (and alternative) it was to the system she was entering. She sees policing as having a preventative role, not just the traditional role of response to acts and corresponding punishment.

There is a wonderful story she speaks of where she once gave the Prime Minister a ticket. The absolute inner-strength and conviction in justice is outstanding. After this happened, Kiran was shifted into correctional facilities, which was a common move for “problem” officers. I am certain she would have felt at times a feeling that her career would be over with that move. But instead of allowing that to happen, Kiran instead set up educational services for prisoners. She found people to volunteer their time and donate their goods to help those prisoners learn to read and write and up-skill.

I found it interesting to read about how Kiran condemned the government banning of a BBC documentary about a 2012 Delhi gang rape.

“The film… provides evidence of community indifference, weaknesses of justice system, ill equipped enforcement mechanisms, and of outdated mindset… ‘Hiding (banning the movie) is not the answer. Confronting the stark reality is the answer'” (Source)

Kiran is a strong and powerful activist and has had a hugely successful career  from police service into activism and politics. A lot of her achievements are put out in articles and it all reads as this incredible, trail blazing smack down of inspirational goal kicking progress. What I like about her work, however, is that she offers internships to young women and is constantly encouraging women and girls to get out there, be bold, take risks and take on the world.

What this does (in my opinion) is start breaking down the “but how do I do any of that?!” feeling that springs to mind when you are so overwhelmed by all of the glory of a person’s career and you have no idea how they navigated each hurdle.

I do believe she brushes over things, particularly when asked about starting in the police force. The 50’s and 60’s would have been a shocking time for her to be starting in the police force as a woman. She would have suffered tremendously. I hope that she does tell-all one day when she is ready, but I do respect her right to silence on those matters that she perhaps feels are no longer relevant to her story.

Thank you to the following sites:

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