Different faces of the Indian women’s movement

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Source: The post is based on the articleDifferent faces of the Indian women’s movementpublished in The Hindu on 13th March 2023.

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The Indian women’s movement is well-known for its vibrancy, but there has been less attention on the movement’s gradual transformation.

About the evolution of women’s movements in India

Nationalist movement: The political history of the Indian women’s movement is written in photographs of wave after wave of arrests of women satyagrahis during the Salt Satyagraha and the Quit India Movement.

Quote: “When woman, whom we call abala (weak), become sabala (strong), all those who are helpless will become powerful” a clarification by Gandhiji at All India Women’s Conference (1936) was the hallmark of a nationalist movement that relied on women to serve as its face.

Ecofeminist movements: Chipko, one of the earliest ecofeminist movements in the world, circulated photographs of women clinging to trees to protest tree cutting.

Quiet revolution of the 1970s: It probably did as much to enhance attention to women’s specific needs as street protests.

– For example, the Self-Employed Women’s Association began to unionize women in the informal sector leading the advocacy for reforms in legal and social protection for women workers;

– Feminist advocacy highlighting sex-selective abortion and discrimination in inheritance patterns led to legal reforms; and

– Women’s formal and informal collectives have worked hard to reform and implement laws against sexual harassment in the workforce and in public spaces.

73rd Amendment to the Constitution: It was passed, reserving one-third of seats in panchayat and leadership positions in local bodies for women.

Self Help Groups(SHGs): The latest era in women’s activism is distinguished by the harsh politics of protest and quietly organized rights-based movements. 

– The government has invested heavily in the formation and support of Self Help Groups (SHGs). 

– The Economic Survey states that there are about 12 million self-help groups in India today, the majority of which are women. 

– These SHGs are usually supported and advised by community resource persons paid by the state. SHGs primarily function as savings and loan institutions where members deposit small amounts of savings per month and can borrow in case of emergencies. In some cases, they also support entrepreneurship through bank loans.

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