The word ‘Feminism’ refers to the support of women’s rights based on a political, social and economic level with equal to men. It just means that women should be allowed the same rights and opportunities.
Now, feminism that came to existence after the 1960s has become an evolving socio-political movement for equality. It leads to the explanation which aims at understanding the power structures present in the society.
I define feminism as a mode of existence in which the woman is free of the dependence syndrome. There is a dependence syndrome be it husband, father, the community or a religious group. When women free themselves of the dependence syndrome and lead a normal life, my idea of feminism materializes. – Chaman Nahaledited for better clarity
This patriarchal society has lead women to stay quiet and watch the world go by while submitting themselves. Today, women have experienced a lot; from getting educated to pursuing a career, and building an environment where independence is the norm.
There is still much more to be accomplished in women empowerment, however recognising the hard work and efforts made by women in the past is of utmost importance. Have a look at the dedication of Indian women whose lives revolved around the idea of feminism.
Savitribai Phule (1831-1897)
She was a pioneer of feminism, and India’s first female teacher who set up schools to encourage women of all castes to get educated. She motivated them to pursue education for self-development, and a lot more!
The great woman worked hard to abolish caste and gender discrimination by setting up the ‘Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha’ to prevent female infanticide and campaigned against the killing of widows and pregnant rape victims. She is highly revered by advocates of the feminist movement in India today due to controversial topics.
Fatima Sheikh was a colleague of the Phule couple and she is regarded as the first Muslim woman teacher of India.
There was a time when the couple was threatened by stopping their practices, but Savitribai Phule and Fatima Sheikh eventually set up a school together. They started teaching women from marginalised communities defying the norms of the orthodox communities and took risks as a Muslim woman in the 19th century.
Tarabai Shinde (1850-1910)
Tarabai Shinde was a feminist activist who was against the patriarchy and caste discrimination. She defied the inherent patriarchy found in Hindu scriptures.
Her first published work ‘Stri Purush Tulana’ in Marathi meaning Comparison of Women and Men explores the disparities between women and men. It is considered as one of India’s first modern feminist texts and fought for similar agendas along with the Phule couple for gender and caste oppression.
Ramabai Ranade (1863-1924)
Ramabai Ranade was one of the first women’s rights activists in India and the founder of Seva Sadan in Mumbai and Pune where thousands of women are trained for various skills. She dedicated her life to making women self-reliant and financially independent.
Ramabai Ranade was married off at the age of 11 without education. But, her husband encouraged her to complete her education and contributed to many communities that worked towards women’s welfare throughout her life.
Dr Vina Mazumdar (1927-2013)
She was one of the first women to be involved with the ‘twin movements’ of Women’s Studies and Women’s Activism. She spent most of her time understanding the diverse experiences of women in the patriarchal system across India.
Through her research, she realised there wasn’t any widespread knowledge about lived experiences underprivileged women. This thought led to the advent of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), in 1980.
In 1982, Dr Vina became one of the founding members of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS), which conducts national conferences to promote Women’s Studies, even to this day.
Sharmila Rege was the Director of Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre (KSPWSC) at Savitribai Phule Pune University. Her work falls among three categories – Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Women’s Movements.
She is most acknowledged for her Dalit-feminist standpoint. Throughout her career, she strongly reinforced Ambedkarite ideologies which centred the feminist movement around the voices of the marginalised.
Feminism is not about hating men; it’s not about wanting to rule over them, it’s just deserving equality.
In conclusion, these revolutionary feminists are a symbol of the struggle for equality of women. The movement to secure rights for women in India has come a long way by the brave efforts of these women. There are still many non – governmental organizations who are working for gender equality and justice in India.
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