5 Indian feminists dedicated their lives to empowering women – Feminism is defined as a social and political movement that advocates for women’s rights on the grounds of equality of sexes. Feminism in no way denies the biological differences between the sexes but demands equality in opportunity social, political, and economic arenas.
Women have suffered a lot through the years at the hands of men. In earlier centuries, they were treated as almost non-existent. As if all the rights belonged to men even something as basic as voting. As the times evolved, women realized their power. There began the revolution for women’s empowerment.
It made them aware of their rights and how they must make their own place in society.
Here are five women whose lives revolved around empowering women.
Savitribai Phule (1831-1897)
Savitribai Phule (1831-1897) is considered one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists.
She was also the country’s first female teacher who went on to set up 17 more schools that imparted education to women of all castes.
Along with her husband Jyotirao, was a staunch advocate of anti-caste ideology and women’s rights.
he organized a barber’s strike against shaving the heads of Hindu widows, fought for widow remarriage, and in 1853, started a shelter for pregnant widows.
Savitribai’s writing ranged from poetry in folklore form, collected in the anthologies Kavya Phule and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar, to essays such as ‘Karz’.
In 2014, the University of Pune has renamed Savitribai Phule Pune University in her honor.
Tarabai Shinde (1850-1910)
Tarabai was a colleague of activists Jotirao and Savitribai Phule. Tarabai raised awareness on the double-standards of men and women in society. She also discussed the unfair treatment of the different castes in Indian society.
Her first published work ‘Stri Purush Tulana’ in Marathi (Translation – Comparison of Women and Men) in which she explores the disparities between women and men, is regarded as one of India’s first modern feminist texts.
Ramabai Ranade (1863-1924)
A social worker, one of the first women’s rights activists, and a political activist, Ramabai Ranade (1863-1924) was an exceptional woman.
As a child, Ramabai Ranade was not allowed to study and was married off at the age of 11. Fortunately, though, her husband encouraged her to complete her education.
In her lifetime she went on to become the president of the Bombay Seva Sadan (1908) and Poona Seva Sadan (1909), the first two branches of a women’s organization started by GK Gokhale and GK Deodhar, popular social reformers of the time.
Along with the education of adult women and girls, she focused on their professional and vocational training to help them financially, especially poor women who had been abandoned as wives or had become widows.
SARLA DEVI CHAUDHURANI(1872-1945)
Sarala Devi was an exceptional woman best known for being the founder of the first women’s organisation in India – The Bharat Stree Mahamandal in Allahabad. Sarala Devi was also a writer, singer as well as a political activist, and leader.
An eminent feminist, Sarala Devi was a promoter of female education and worked hard to bring recognition to the importance of female education in the country.
Sharmila Rege (1964-2013)
Sharmila Rege was the Director of Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre (KJSPWSC) at Savitribai Phule Pune University. Her work falls among three categories – Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Women’s Movements.
She is most noted for her Dalit-feminism standpoint wherein she criticizes the masculinization of Dalithood, and Savarnisation of womanhood, which leads to to the exclusion of Dalit womanhood as a whole.
She also published her book “Writing Caste/ Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women’s Testimonios” in 2006. Unfortunately, Sharmila Rege passed away at the young age of 48 due to cancer.