Meet Dr Himangi Bhardwaj, one of two Indian women to receive the MBE this year
Dr Himangi Bhardwaj, senior health and policy advisor at the British High Commission, is one of two Indian women to be appointed as the Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for 2021. The honour, conferred by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is in recognition of Dr Himangi’s work for healthcare services in India and the UK.
She will be receiving the honour on June 12, Her Majesty’s birthday. MBE is a British order of Chivalry, which rewards contributions to arts and sciences, and to people who work with charitable and welfare organisations and public service outside the civil service.
“It’s one of the biggest moments of my life. I feel incredibly privileged and honoured to have this level of recognition for my work. It’s a great feeling and a culmination of really good nine years I have spent at the British High Commission,” Dr Himangi tells HerStory.
As an Army officer’s daughter, she travelled the length and breadth of the country, schooling in Kendriya Vidyalayas and also seeing up close the health systems in the country. After completing her Bachelor’s in Dental Surgery from the Army College of Dental Sciences in Secunderabad, she pursued her Master’s in Public Health from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), which made her realise the importance of public health.
“I started to understand the importance of health as a right, and worked with the system closely. I worked in rural Maharashtra, and that brought me close to how community health works and how community ownership of health is important,” she says.
Dr Himangi joined the British High Commission in 2012. She throws more light on her role as senior health and policy advisor:
“My role is focused on developing the collaboration between India and the UK on the policy side, making sure we put in place joint programmes and projects on health that deliver on both our objectives and cover areas that are of real importance to the two countries.”
These initiatives include medical education and training, nursing, leading all government-to-government engagement on health and life sciences, and working with team members from trade, commerce, research, and innovation.
“A major initiative was the MOU signed between the two countries in Geneva on health and life sciences in 2013. Also, an MOU was signed between the two drug regulators, MHRA and CDSCO. We have also done considerable work in the field of maternal and child health,” she adds.
Dr Himangi says focusing on gender policy continues to be an important part of the work they do.
“I have benefitted a lot personally from the flexibility and the strong focus on women. I had my daughter while I was working here and received all the support when it came to maternal health and care. We try to extend this gender-based policy to all our projects and programmes as well,” she says.
Dr Himangi is also part of the crisis team that formed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Elaborating on this, she says, “The crisis team formed last year comprises diplomats as well as a huge population of country-based staff. We have focused on COVID-19 analysis and worked closely with the Indian government on this. We have worked together on staff welfare, repatriations, and vaccination.”
Going forward, she believes health will continue to be one of the most critical areas of work for both India and the UK.
“The pandemic has shown that it’s something the world needs to continue to focus on, learn from it, and build more robust health systems. The mutual exchange of knowledge and learnings will be benefit both countries,” she concludes.
The other Indian woman to receive the MBE is Mohini Singh, the consular officer at the British Deputy High Commission in Chandigarh.