Home Accountant Imprisoned and banned from exercising, how India’s first female CA challenged gender bias

Imprisoned and banned from exercising, how India’s first female CA challenged gender bias


AAppearing for Chartered Accountancy (CA), where only 15% of applicants pass the highly competitive exams, is nothing less than a commendable feat worth celebrating.

But for R Sivabhogam, India’s first female CA, it was a double whammy. If on the one hand her parents feared that no man would marry such an educated woman, British laws prohibited a person like her from opening an independent practice.

In the eyes of the law, she was a traitor who had been imprisoned for opposing the British by participating in the civil disobedience movement. She was therefore not allowed to register as an accountant.

But Sivabhogam was not the only one to sit quietly and let others dictate her fate. After all, she had dared to enter a male stronghold by fighting several small battles.

fight for freedom

Sivabhogam was born on July 23, 1907. She completed her education from Lady Willingdon School, Triplicane and graduated from Queen Mary’s College, Chennai.

Although there is very little or no information available about her parents, she was heavily influenced by Sister RS ​​Subbalakshmi, a pioneering social reformer. Subbalakshmi provided a platform for housewives and widows to be more aware.

She was also influenced by the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi. It is believed that she led a simple life, wearing only khadi and traveling by bus. And like all other Indians, the bugle call of the civil disobedience movement stirred something inside her.

As part of the Youth League and later the Swadesi League, she moved from teaching khadi-based block printing to actively boycotting foreign goods. Her actions got backlash and she was imprisoned for a year at Vellore’s goal.

However, what was seen as a severe punishment for disobedience gave India its first female listener. No one, including Sivabhogam herself, had imagined that she would script the story in more than one way.

Opening the way

It was while she was in prison that she decided to sit for the Graduate Diploma in Accountancy (GDA) examination. While it’s unclear what drew her to the accounting world, according to reports, she was dissuaded from entering a male-dominated profession. Only her older sister and Subbalakshmi supported her decision.

One can only imagine the determination, hard work and tremendous courage it took for Sivabhogam to pass the exams and create history in 1933. Thereafter, she undertook her internship training with CS Sastri, a listener in Chennai.

Despite the trainee status and the sheer brilliance of being a pioneer, her struggles, both personal and professional, were not yet over.

When she was not allowed to start her own practice, she questioned this bizarre law and filed for an order. She won the case and started her practice in 1937 and later led the auditing of government institutions and social organizations.


She became a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) when it was established in 1949.

She is the first and only woman to hold the post of President of the South India Regional Council for three consecutive years (from 1955 to 1958). As President, she even hosted the very first regional conference in 1956, which was opened by the legendary statesman Sir. CP Ramaswamy Iyer. She also participated in the Fourth Conference of Accountants of Asia and the Pacific in 1965.

She was a committee member of the Society of Auditors and a member of the Senate of Madras University.

Apart from carrying out audits in various government institutions including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), she has also endeavored to promote the education of young girls. She offered scholarships and coaching classes to girls.

In 1956, she presented an award in the form of a gold medallion for the best female candidate for passing the final examination held by the ICAI in the first sitting.

Sivabhogam, who died on June 14, 1966, paved the way for many female listeners in the years to come. If today the ICAI has more than 80,000 female CAs, considerable credit goes to this spirited woman.


The Hindu



Edited by Yoshita Rao