As Border Roads Organization goes gender-neutral, women start shattering glass ceilings

Team India Sentinels Wednesday 6th of March 2024 05:59 PM

Col Ponung Doming led the construction efforts of the world’s highest road in Ladakh’s Hanle. (BRO photo via special arrangement.)

New Delhi: The Border Roads Organization, established in 1960, traditionally employed only men due to the demanding nature of its work – building roads in remote, harsh terrains along India's borders. However, on March 8, 2021, a historic decision was made to create a gender-neutral environment, aligning with the government's “Naari Sashaktikaran” (women’s empowerment) initiative.

Paving the Way

Vaishali S Hiwase, an executive engineer, became the first woman to head a road construction company (RCC) in April 2021. She oversaw one of BRO's toughest projects – connecting Munshiyari to Milam glacier in Uttarakhand. Soon after, Obin Taki, another executive engineer (civil), took charge of an RCC building roads and bridges in Arunachal Pradesh’s Siang valley.

Breaking Barriers

Building on this success, an all-woman RCC was formed in Chamoli district, with Major Aaina Rana leading the team from August 2021. All three platoon commanders under her were also women. Major Rana’s RCC constructed crucial roads to Mana pass, the second-highest in India. Her leadership was recognized by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, who visited Mana village in October 2022 and laid the foundation stone for widening the road.

Beyond Construction

Colonel Navneet Duggal became the first woman Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) officer to command a workshop in the Kashmir valley, providing technical support in challenging terrain. Lieutenant Colonel Snigdha Sharma, now a colonel, became the first woman to head the legal cell at BRO Headquarters, managing over 700 cases and upholding legal integrity.

Col Navneet Duggal (R). (India  Sentinels photo via special arrangement.)

Leading the Way

In February 2023, Colonel Archana Sood became the first woman to lead a BRO task force, overseeing road construction in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang valley. Colonel Ponung Doming followed suit in June 2023, heading a task force at Hanle, Ladakh, responsible for building the world's highest motorable road at an altitude of 19,400 feet, connecting strategic locations. 

Col Archana Sood (F). (India Sentinels photo via special arrangement)

Colonel Doming is also responsible for maintaining the existing highest road at Umlingla.

Col Ponung Doming. (India Sentinels photo via special arrangement.)

BRO’s Commitment

In a media release, the BRO said it is committed to women’s empowerment, offering diverse roles, growth opportunities, proper healthcare, and encouragement for holistic development as they take on leadership positions. “These women achievers have not only shattered gender barriers but also set new standards of excellence within BRO,” it said.


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