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Essence of freedom: What independence means to women of India

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By Ridham Gambhir

Freedom and liberty are two expressions that come to mind when one thinks of the word independence. India’s struggle for freedom entails myriad men who starved, fought, argued and defeated the Britishers. But while all this was happening, where were the women? What were they doing?

Then..

The pre-independent India is notorious for its anti-women practices like Sati, Child marriage and the Purdah system. For men, women were either harbinger of offspring or a dutiful attendant to them and their family. However, though no kind of Feminism broke out in that epoch, yet many women took that one step that made a significant difference to the stature of women in India.

With Congress being initiated in 1885, women started participating in their sessions. While ten women attended the fourth session of Congress in Bombay in 1889, the count started escalating each time. Swarna Kumari became the first woman to speak from Congress’ platform, she was further joined by Pandita Ramabai, Manikjee Arbtejee and Shevanti Bai.

Not many know about Swarna kumari Devi, sister of Rabindranath Tagore who started the Ladies Theosophical

Swarna Kumar Devi
Swarna Kumar Devi

Society (a multi-religion association of women) in 1882 and later became a member of the INC. Her daughter, Sarla Devi was an active member of the nationalist militant struggle and started training women in lathi and sword in 1903.

In 1916, the Begum of Bhopal established the All India Muslim Women’s Conference with her primary aim being education of women. She also directed her attention to the eradication of the complex polygamy system.

Within the domestic precincts, women wove Khadi and other indigenous goods in order to boycott the foreign products and in the so-called ambit of men, they too made speeches and wrote articles to disseminate the freedom movement. Kumudini Mitter, a nationalist published revolutionary ideas through Suprabhat, a Bengali magazine. Sarla Devi opened Lakshmi Bhandar, a stall to popularise swadeshi goods.

Movements such as Bardoli Satyagrah and Civil Disobedience brought women from different parts of India together to fight the dominion of the English men. In fact, the civil disobedience movement in Punjab was launched by 5000 women.

sucheta-kriplani
Sucheta Kriplani

While Gandhi and other “men” are famous for going to jail while revolting, there was Sucheta Kriplani, in-charge of the women’s wing of All India Congress Committee since 1939 who got arrested in civil disobedience movement. Usha Mehta, in Bombay operated an underground radio station and broadcasted regular news about Congress from it. She was later arrested and imprisoned for 4 years.

At that time when Annie Besant was fighting on the front, women like Sarla Devi, Kamladevi Chattopadhyay and Usha Mehta were fighting in other ways possible to carve a niche for the natives and especially women.

Now..

With gender equality propagandas being portrayed though different advertisements, texts and real life incidents one cannot fail but mark the progress and emancipation that women have achieved for themselves today.

While school textbooks promulgated Kalpana Chawla, Sheila Dikshit and Sania Mirza as role models for the

Kalpana Chawla
Kalpana Chawla

upcoming generation, every household in India now has a hero, rather heroine in it.

It is not just self-motivation that fuelled the progress of women. With various amendment in the constitution laws and Acts being introduced, the stance of women ameliorated significantly. For instance, The Hindu Succession Act (1956) empowers a woman by making her an equal and a legitimate inheritor of the family property. The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 states that there be no difference in the wages of men and women.

Chanda-Kochhar-3
Chanda Kocchar

A thorough patriarchal nation like India is getting a fresh taste of feminism. Ranging from matriarchal families to women like Chanda Kochhar who run affluent business, this nation is accelerating not just its GDP but its gender roles as well.

Women are not fighting men,they are fighting their supremacy which  has been established allegedly. While India got its independence 68 years back, a majority of women in India are still under the oppression of not Englishmen, but their own men.

 

 

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative
A combination photo shows some of the actresses who have made allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Listed in alphabetical order, top row from left, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Cara Delevingne, Romola Garai, Judith Godreche, Heather Graham, Angelina Jolie. VOA

USA, Jan 1, 2018: More than 300 top women in Hollywood — from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett — unveiled an initiative Monday to tackle pervasive sexual harassment in workplaces, calling special attention to their “sisters” in less than glamorous blue-collar jobs.

The initiative, dubbed Time’s Up, caps a year in which the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal touched off a deluge of allegations that brought down powerful men in entertainment, politics and the media, prompting companies, government agencies and even the U.S. federal court system to re-examine harassment policies.

But in an open letter printed in The New York Times, the new initiative lends the star power of its A-list members to the cause of women in less prominent fields, urging support and respect for farm workers and others whose humble positions leave them vulnerable and voiceless.

“We fervently urge the media covering the disclosures by people in Hollywood to spend equal time on the myriad experiences of individuals working in less glamorized and valorized trades,” the group says in its full-page ad.

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile … we stand with you. We support you.”

$15 million goal

Last month, the head of Ford Motor Company apologized to employees at two factories in Chicago and promised changes, after a scathing expose by the Timesdetailed pervasive harassment and mistreatment of women at the plants dating back to the 1990s. It was one of the first major media investigations into sexual harassment in blue-collar workplaces.

Among the specific steps it announced, Time’s Up has established a legal defense fund that, in just 12 days, has raised $13.4 million toward a $15 million goal aimed at providing legal aid for women and men who were sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace.

It has vowed to push for legislation to strengthen laws on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The group insists that more women must be brought into positions of power and leadership, while every woman should have equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation.

As for Hollywood, it wants “swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone.”

And it called on women to wear black at Sunday’s Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality, and to raise awareness about the group’s efforts.

‘Dear Sisters’ 

The open letter in the Times, which also appears in the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with the words “Dear Sisters” in large, bold type, and closes with the words “in solidarity,” followed by the names of the 300 women.

Several of Weinstein’s accusers signed the open letter. They include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, as well as Salma Hayek, whose lengthy account of mistreatment by Weinstein — “my monster,” she called him — was widely circulated on social media after appearing last month in The New York Times.

Weinstein has denied some of the allegations, including Hayek’s assertion that he pressured her to do a nude sex scene in one movie.

Other prominent women lending their names to the Time’s Up cause are actresses Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Amy Schumer, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman and Viola Davis; producer Shonda Rhimes; Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley; feminist activist Gloria Steinem; lawyer and ex-Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel. (VOA)