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First Female IFS Officer in India: Chonira Belliappa Muthamma

Chonira Belliappa Muthamma, the trailblazing figure who broke new ground as the first female Indian Foreign Service (I.F.S.) officer in India, remains a beacon of inspiration for her tireless dedication to gender equality throughout her distinguished career. Her life’s journey is an uplifting tale of resolute determination and unwavering persistence. Muthamma’s achievements and her contributions to the advancement of the IFS and the women’s rights movement are still celebrated and held in high regard today.

Early Life and Educational Life of C.B. Muthamma

Chonira Belliappa Muthamma was born on 24th January 1924, in Virajpet, Coorg. Despite facing adversity following her father’s early demise, she was determined to pursue education. Muthamma excelled in her studies, graduating with honors from Women’s Christian College, Chennai and obtaining a Master’s degree in English Literature from Presidency College.

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Historic Entry into Indian Civil Services as First Female IFS Officer

In 1948, Muthamma achieved an extraordinary milestone by becoming the first woman to clear the Indian Civil Services examinations. Her remarkable feat positioned her at the top of the list of candidates for the Indian Foreign Services (IFS), marking the beginning of an illustrious career. However, her entry into the service came with a condition and signed an undertaking that she would resign from her job once she got married.

Trailblazing Diplomatic Career

Muthamma’s diplomatic journey as first lady IFS officer of India took her to various countries, including postings to Paris, Rangoon and London. Her career reached a pinnacle in 1970 when she became India’s Ambassador to Hungary, setting a historic precedent as the first woman from within the IFS to hold this position.

Struggle for Gender Equality

 Beyond her diplomatic achievements, Muthamma is remembered for her unwavering commitment to gender equality within the Indian Civil Services. When denied a promotion, she challenged discriminatory employment rules, taking the Ministry of External Affairs to court. In a landmark 1979 Supreme Court judgement, her case prevailed, leading to significant changes in service rules. This ruling eliminated the mandatory government permission requirement for women officers’ marriages, marking a critical step towards gender parity.

Legacy and Contributions

Following her retirement in 1982, Muthamma continued her commitment to society. She served on the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues and was a passionate environmentalist, culinary enthusiasts, philanthropist and author. She made notable contributions, including co-authoring a book on Kodava cuisine and donating land to the Missionaries of Charity for an orphanage and educational purposes.

Her legacy endures as a trailblazer and advocate for women in the Indian Foreign Services and as a symbol of resilience and empowerment. She passed away at the age of 85 in 2009, leaving an indelible mark on India’s diplomatic landscape.

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Who was the first female IFS officer in India?

Chonira Belliappa Muthamma, the first female Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Officer, was a trailblazing figure who shattered glass ceilings and fought for gender equality throughout her career.

When and where did Chonira Belliappa Muthamma born?

Chonira Belliappa Muthamma was born on 24th January 1924, in Virajpet, Coorg.

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