Essay about Women Movement in India

Words: 5580
Pages: 23

Foundation Course


Human Rights, Gender and Environment

Indian Women’s Movement
Aparna Basu∗

The roots of the Indian women’s movement go back to the nineteenth century male social reformers who took up issues concerning women and started women’s organizations. Women started forming their own organization from the end of the nineteenth century first at the local and then at the national level. In the years before independence, the two main issues they took up were political rights and reform of personal laws. Women’s participation in the freedom struggle broadened the base of the women’s movement. In post independence India, large number of women’s autonomous groups have sprung up challenging patriarchy and taking up a variety
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When Lord Edwin Montague, Secretary of State for India, came to India to join the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford to survey the political scene with a view to introduce constitutional reforms, Indian women saw an opportunity to demand political rights. This led to the foundation of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917 by Annie Besant, Margaret Cousins and Dorothy Jinarajadasa, all three Irish women Theosophists, who had been suffragettes in their own country. They were joined by Malati Patwardhan, Ammu Swaminathan, Mrs. Dadabhoy and Mrs. Ambujammal. WIA was in a sense the first all India women’s association with the clear objective of securing voting rights for women. A Memorandum signed by 23 women from different parts of the country, demanding votes for women on the same terms as men which would enable them to have a say in political matters was submitted to Montague and Chelmsford. It also stated other demands such as for education, training in skills, local self- government, social welfare, etc. (Cousins,1950)The Indian National Congress at its session in Calcutta in 1917, over which Annie Besant presided, supported the demand of votes for women and so did the Muslim League. A women’s delegation led by Sarojini Naidu met the Secretary of State and the Viceroy to plead their case personally. The women leaders