Skip to main content

Gender equality, the freedom struggle way (.hindu )

The movement empowered the women, but also feminised the men

In this time of toxic masculinity, we must recognise and learn from the successes of the past. Mahatma Gandhi consciously feminised India’s freedom struggle to win against the brute masculinity of British power.

He saw his mother Putlibai and his wife Kasturba (in picture) use peaceful resistance against patriarchy at home. His mother would fast to put moral pressure on his father, and his wife would refuse any act that he asked her to do if she did not agree with it. He personally experienced the power that resists rather than destroys. He incorporated this knowledge into a political tool, satyagraha, that combined civil disobedience with constructive action. Not only was each activity in civil disobedience possible for women to do, because it was non-violent, but each act of constructive action was especially suited to women.

The Champaran trigger

When on the famous day of April 16, 1917, Gandhiji was asked by the British sub-divisional magistrate to leave the district of Champaran, and cease recording the plight of indigo farmers, he refused and wrote two letters. In the first, he asked a friend for volunteers, especially educated women volunteers, for the constructive action of running schools and ashrams where girls would be educated and hierarchies of caste, class and gender would be overcome. Everyone would spin, weave, stitch and wash clothes, grow and cook food, and clean and maintain hygiene.

In the second letter, he stated his own civil disobedience: he would not leave Champaran without recording the plight of the farmers. By April 17, thousands of people were standing outside the court, watching Gandhiji say he was willing to pay the price for disobeying the law by answering a higher law: the voice of conscience. By November, he had opened three girls’ schools and ashrams in Champaran.

With the sustained help of these ashrams, an increasing number of volunteers completed and submitted a report on the pitiable condition of Indigo farmers to the British, who were forced to withdraw the unjust laws and offer some redress. Frailty became a strength in India’s freedom struggle. Women began to see the impact of their constructive action. Emboldened with their success in the running of ashrams and schools, women during the freedom struggle began to participate in protest politics. They began to organise public meetings, unionise mill workers, picket liquor shops, boycott foreign goods and court arrest.Each call for a negative action was matched by a call for a positive action making politics a spiritual force for women. Satyagraha swept aside old taboos and customs. Organising public meetings meant stepping out of the boundaries of home, unionising mill workers meant overcoming the purdah, boycotting foreign-made cloth meant spinning your own, going to jail and running ashrams meant overcoming caste restrictions.

Even the poorest and uneducated of women could spin yarn at home. Millions of volunteers, especially women who could not leave home, could participate. The independence struggle entered every household.

India’s national movement included an unprecedented number of women and ended up creating an unmatched number of women leaders. Eventually, these actions changed the women, but also feminised the men, who too learned to cook, clean, wash, spin, weave and stitch. This role reversal embodied the possibility of women doing men’s work and men doing women’s work; a shared humanity that replaced the gendered polarisation of the dominant and the dominated.


Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Khar’s experimentation with Himalayan nettle brings recognition (downtoearth)

Nature never fails to surprise us. In many parts of the world, natural resources are the only source of livelihood opportunities available to people. They can be in the form of wild shrubs like Daphne papyracea and Daphne bholua (paper plant) that are used to make paper or Gossypium spp (cotton) that forms the backbone of the textile industry.

Nothing can compete with the dynamism of biological resources. Recently, Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan nettle), a fibre-yielding plant, has become an important livelihood option for people living in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

A Himalayan nettle value chain development initiative implemented by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiati…

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…