80 years ago, Mahatma Gandhi spoke these words at All India Women’s Conference.
If by strength we do not mean brutish strength, but strength of character, steadfastness, and endurance, she should be called sabala, strong.
Any tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the Great Soul, would be an empty one, if we were to take no cue for our own guidance from his words and from his life; for him ideas and ideals had no value if they were not translated into action. He saw man and women as equals, complementing each other. And he saw himself not as a visionary, but as a practical idealist. If then, men and women work together selflessly and sincerely as equals with a faith like Gandhi’s, they may indeed realize Ram Rajya, the perfect state.
Gandhiji’s devotion to women began with his devotion to his mother and Kasturba, most particularly to women as mother. Motherhood became increasingly his model for liberation of India and his own life, a mother, having brought forth a child, selflessly devotes herself to his care till he grows up and becomes independent. Even after children are grown-up her constant desire is to make herself one with them. Unless we have feeling and devotion for our motherland many countries will be lying in wait to crush us down He saw no hope for India’s emancipation while her womanhood remained un-emancipated. He held men to be largely responsible for the tragedy. In the course of his social reform work the realization came to him that if he wanted to reform and purify society of the various evils that had crept into it; he had to cultivate a mother’s heart.
Gandhiji believed women could do much to transform India on all levels. He believed that equal rights for women and men were necessary but not sufficient to create a more just social order. What good does it do to us to have equal rights if we are divided within ourselves and unable to attend true unity with others?
In a letter written to RajKumari Amrit Kaur from Wardha on 20-10-1936, Gandhiji wrote, “If you women only realize your dignity and privilege, and make full sense of it for mankind, you will make it much better than it is. But man has delighted in enslaving you and you have proved willing slaves till the slave and holders have become one in the crime on degrading humanity. My special function from childhood, you might say, has been to make women realize her dignity. I was once slave holder myself but Ba proved an unwilling slave and thus “opened my eyes to my mission.”
Gandhiji did not like Indian society’s preference for a boy and a general neglect of a girl child. he said: “I fail to see any reason for jubilation over the birth of a son and for mourning over the birth of a daughter. Both are God’s gifts. They have an equal right to live and are equally necessary to keep the world going.”
He said “A daughter’s share must be equal to that of a son. The husband’s earnings are a joint property of husband and wife as he makes money by her assistance.”
In short, I admit no distinction between men and women except such as has been made by nature and can be seen with human eyes.”
Gandhiji represented a crucial break from the attitude of many of the leaders of the reform movements of the late nineteenth century.The main contributions of the Gandhi to the cause of women lay in his absolute and unequivocal insistence on their personal dignity and autonomy in the family and society.Gandhiji preached and practiced sharing of housework by both men and women of the family. He encouraged women to do intellectual work and men to help in cooking, cleaning and caring, conventionally ‘women’s chores’.
The only factor that would enable women to come out of this situation was the determination and strength of the women themselves. Though men should help in the cause of women, ultimately women will have to determine their destinies.In Gandhiji’s philosophy, the women of India found a new identity. His words and deeds have inspired thousands of women, and will continue to do so, in their struggle against injustice and inequality.
QWEEN pays tribute to the father of the nation, and pledges to further his dream of making women self-reliant, independent and an important contributing workforce to the progress of our country.
-Book 'Meditations on Gandhi'