“While how you look matters, how you react to situations should matter most. Nobody should put their bodies first but rather one’s intellect, and this is a sure way to earn respect” insists Sheela Raja Ram, the Vice Chancellor of Botho University. Her statement is motivated by the strong support she has for gender equality. Being a Vice-Chancellor of a science and technology oriented institution which has 50 percent of its students as female, Raja Ram is faced with a unique obligation as an educationist of ensuring that the girl-child is at par with male counterparts. “Colleagues from other universities are often surprised when I tell them about the gender ratio, I think it’s remarkable,” says Raja Ram.
She is a strong believer in gender equality and feels that women can do whatever they put their mind on, including excelling in science. She says it is high time women stand up and be proactive. And Judging by the situation Leading by example at Botho University, Raja Ram could not have said it better. “Sometimes women just have to stop playing victim and take charge of the situation by doing what is needed,” she contends. She believes self-reliance and independence are important for a woman. She agrees that the world needs both working women and home makers and regardless of their career choices women need to be proactive and think independently. Raja Ram also serves as the Managing Director of the University.
She was part of the founding team of the institution when it started as NIIT – a computing training provider – in 1997. She became the Managing Director in 2004 and has been responsible for the development and implementation of two strategic plans that transformed the small institute into Botho University in 2013. Raja Ram has a Masters degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, one of India’s premier science and technology institutions and is currently pursuing her doctoral studies.
The girl-child at Botho
Female students make more than 50 percent of Botho University student population and for the past three consecutive years they have been the top performing graduates. About 10 years ago when Botho started gaining ground as a fully-fledged college and receiving a high number of students, Raja Ram was concerned to see many female students pregnant while pursuing their studies. “It was really worrisome,” she says. She notes that pregnancy among students not only affected them socially but academically too. “Our curriculum is very rigorous and requires full attention and intense studying,” Raja Ram says. She, however, notes that this worrisome issue has since abated as she now sees less and less pregnant students around campus.
Generally, however, female students, according to Raja Ram, seem to be doing well. Though not aimed at female students only, the University also has various programmes aimed at assisting students during the course of their studies and when they are ready to join the world of work. Botho University degree programmes have an embedded entrepreneurship module and an internship programme, thus giving students a chance to get real life experience of the corporate world. The University also offers career development initiatives where students are coached on how to build their CVs as well as other employability skills. The students are also encouraged to organise clubs such as the Gal Power Club.
As per the university’s vision, which advocates for social transformation, Raja Ram believes respect is the foundation of all successful relationships, hence her advice to men is to respect women. Respecting women she says could erase both problems and inefficiencies most people especially women are grappling with. She is also of the view that given a chance, women should stop perceiving themselves as victims, saying sometimes when a situation is victimising you it is better to move away. She says that good education gives women an opportunity to prove themselves, become economically independent and hence gain respect in society.