Posts Tagged ‘Women’

Gone are the days when women were no better than household cooks and nurses for the children. Today, they have reached heights and demand equal recognition and respect. The status of women has gone through ups and downs in India. But today, women adore the highest offices – just one example is the current President of India, Pratibha Patil.

Similar is the scenario in Gujarat. It is moving ahead in the direction of improving the quality of life of women, who do not enjoy the same privileges that some of their male counterparts on other parts of the world do. Women of Gujarat have achieved greatness in all walks of life, and proved beyond doubt that they can do anything men can do, and much more, but they have only been hardly visible and insufficiently recognized.

To mark the International Women’s Day, here’s a look at the women of Gujarat who broke the mould and are surely an inspiration.

KASTURBA GANDHI
It is said that ‘Behind every successful man, there is a woman’. So is the case with our Bapu – Gandhiji. Kasturba always stood beside Gandhiji, after they got married in an arranged child marriage, when she was just 13. She was illiterate, but learnt to read and write from Gandhiji. This was a potentially radical move, given the position of women in India at that time.

Kasturba was a very religious lady. She renounced all caste distinctions and lived in ashrams. She even joined Gandhiji in his protests for freedom of the country. Her loyalty was tested when in 1906, Gandhiji made up his mind to practice Brahmacharya. She stood by this decision, though she did not agree with some of the viewpoints of her husband.
Kasturba was born to a prosperous businessman Gokuldas Makharji of Porbander on April 11, 1869. She died of a heart attack on February 22, 1944.

DIWALIBEN BHIL

The heart and soul of Gujarati Folk Music, Diwaliben belongs to Junagadh. She was discovered over thirty years ago at a local dance group by a leading folklorist and journalist, Jaimal Parmar. She is known for being one of the 25 celebrity singers for ‘Jityu Hamesha Gujarat’ – the Anthem of Gujarat.
A self-taught artiste, Diwaliben has performed all over the country and around the world. She has sung hundreds of Gujarati bhajans, garbas and folk songs. She also worked for Gujarati films as a singer. Diwaliben has received the prestigious Padmashree in 1990. For many years, in order to maintain a steady income she worked at a Prathmikshala. Her job consisted of gathering the children from surrounding homes and escorting them to the local school.

ELABEN BHATT
Elaben is one of the most remarkable forces for empowerment at the grass root level. She has dedicated her life for the development of women and improvement of the quality of life of India’s poor and most oppressed section of people. The soft voiced, simple, cotton-saree clad Elaben has been true to the spirit of her country and her inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi. She has followed his ideals all her life. Elaben pioneered the idea that people themselves, no matter how poor or uneducated, are able to solve their own problems if they organize together to do so. This idea took shape in the form of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), which is one of the best grassroots programs for women in the world. She is the proud winner of many awards and heads many organizations.

Elaben broke away from the grip of an established mind-set and created her own paths and methods of organization. She has taken bold steps in a society where men ran the show.

Born in a well-educated, middle-class family on 7th September 1933, Elaben is based at Ahmedabad.

MALLIKA SARABHAI

The dazzling Mallika is the daughter of the renowned Vikram and Mrinalini Sarabhai, born on 9th May 1953. A well-known activist and one of the leading choreographers, Mallika has her own dance academy named ‘Darpana’ based at Ahmedabad. She is an accomplished Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer and is known for her contributions in the fields of theatre, television, film, writing and publishing.

Mallika started out when she was just 15. She played the role of ‘Draupadi’ in Peter Brook’s play ‘The Mahabharata’. In 1989, she created the first of her hard-hitting solo theatrical works, Shakti: The Power of Women. She has won many accolades during her long career, the Golden Star Award being one of them, which she won for the Best Dance Soloist, Theatre De Champs Elysees, Paris 1977. She was chosen from among 400 dancers from 25 countries.

Mallika is a representative of India for CIOFF (an internationally acclaimed organization for folk dances). Playing roles as diverse as a mother and a choreographer, and pursuing her interests like writing and social service, Mallika is known to put her best foot forward.

Apart from the above fields, on 19 March 2009, Mallika announced her candidature against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, as an independent candidate. She eventually lost by a huge margin.

SARITA JOSHI 
A renowned stage artist, Sarita Joshi is better known as ‘Baa’ in the super hit family entertainer ‘Baa Bahu Aur Baby’. She was born in Pune in 1940, but raised in Vadodara. She started her acting career with Gujarati theatre. She married actor-director-playwright Pravin Joshi and is the mother of Ketaki Dave and Purbi Joshi.

Sarita received international fame because of her role in Abhishek Bachhan starrer ‘Guru’ directed by the renowned filmmaker Mani Ratnam. She was also the central character in the film ‘Dasvidaniya’. Out of all the mediums, she holds a special corner for theatre and stage performances. She claims that the joy of performing on stage is always better than anything else and that it will be her first love.

In 1988, she was awarded with the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. She was also conferred with the Best Actress title in 2007 for her role in the TV soap.

It’s time to salute these women who moved out of their comfort zones as daughters, wives, mothers and sisters. But there are many others who are waiting to get the motivation, opportunity and strength. Women have changed and progressed to unbelievable heights, but one thing is clear – so much is still to change. Let’s pledge for a brighter future!

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Gujarati%20Women%20Who%20Walked%20Miles%20To%20Be%20a%20Milestone_548

ELABEN BHATT: THE FOUNDER OF SELF EMPLOYED WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION (SEWA) WHO BROKE FREE FROM THE MEN-RUN SOCIETY TO CREATE HER OWN PATH

A gentle revolutionary – is what best describes this icon of Gujarat: Elaben Bhatt. A hard-core follower of the Gandhian philosophy, Elaben is one of the most remarkable forces for empowerment at the grass root level. She has dedicated her life for the development of women and improvement of the quality of life of India’s poor and most oppressed section of people. The soft voiced, simple, cotton-saree clad Elaben has been true to the spirit of her country and her inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi. She has followed his ideals all her life.

THE EARLY YEARS

Elaben was born in a well-educated, middle-class family on 7th September 1933 at Ahmedabad. She spent her childhood in Surat. The inspiration for Gandhiji probably came from her grandparents, who worked with him in the non-violent struggle for Indian Independence from the British. Her father, Sumantrai Bhatt, had a successful law practice. While her mother, Vanalila Vyas, was active in women’s movements.Elaben attended the Sarvajanik Girls High School in Surat from 1940 to 1948. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from the MTB College in Surat in 1952. She stepped in her father’s shoes and joined the Sir LA Shah Law College in Ahmedabad. She worked on the Hindu Law and received her degree with a Gold Medal in 1954.

Elaben started her career as an English teacher at the SNDT University in Mumbai. But later, in 1955, she shifted to the Textile Labor Association’s (TLA) legal department at Ahmedabad. TLA was founded by Gandhiji, who had deep respect for the textile producers of India.

Elaben got married to Ramesh Bhatt in 1956.

ELABEN HEADED THE WOMEN’S WING AT TLA

In 1968, Elaben was asked to head the women’s wing at TLA. While working here, she found that women were doing many labor-intensive tasks needed in textile production, as well as in other fields of work. However, as workers, they were invisible.

TLA sent her to Israel for 3 months. She studied at the Afro-Asian Institute in Tel Aviv and received the International Diploma of Labor and Cooperatives in 1971. Back to India, she decided to protect the self-employed women. She saw that there were rights and laws by the State to protect the interests of the industrial workers but none for the self-employed. This thought lead to SEWA – Self Employed Women’s Association. With the co-operation of Arvind Buch, the then President of TLA, SEWA was born in 1972 with Buch as the President and she herself as the General-Secretary.

SEWA

Elaben pioneered the idea that people themselves, no matter how poor or uneducated, are able to solve their own problems if they organize together to do so. This idea took shape in the form of SEWA, which is one of the best grassroots programs for women in the world. SEWA has also become a model for micro-finance programs that other parts of the world can follow. A trade union, SEWA grew continuously from 1972, increasing in its membership and including more and more different occupations within its fold.

This was a bold step by a woman in a society where men ran the show. Elaben broke away from the grip of an established mind-set and created her own paths and methods of organization. Even today, instead of using the political system to effective lobbying or struggle for better rights for working women, Elaben has chosen to limit her field of action even while she shares her ideas and experience across the globe.

WOMEN POWER

Elaben was angered by the fact that the workers especially women and home-based workers were the least visible of all. The workers in the informal sector had no rights. They had to work in difficult conditions and the contractors often exploited them. These women included vegetable sellers, rag pickers, bidi rollers, incense makers, cleaners, laborers, cart pullers, and silk and cotton workers. SEWA bridged this gap and works to organize better working conditions and proper pay. It helps workers at the lowest level of the society become empowered to take control of their lives. SEWA has offered retirement accounts and health insurance to women who never had a safety net, lent working capital to entrepreneurs to open beauty salons in the slums, helped artisans sell their handiwork to new urban department stores and boldly trained its members to become gas station attendants – an unusual job for women on the bottom of India’s social ladder.

To cope up with the issues of money and banking, SEWA registered its own bank in 1974 with 4,000 members. When money had to be raised to register the bank, the women, saying, “We are poor but we are so many!” raised the needed Rs 100,000 within six months. Elaben encouraged the habit of savings among women, provided loans through the bank and pioneered the idea of micro lending. The idea was that very small amounts might be all that is needed to make a difference!

OTHER WORK AREAS AND AWARDS

In a meeting at Johannesburg, South Africa, on 18 July 2007, Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, in a speech he delivered on his 89th birthday. “This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.” Elaben is one of the founding members of The Elders.

Her other work areas and recognitions include:
• Founder and chair person of Sa-Dhan (the All India Association of Micro Finance Institutions)
• Founder-chair of the Indian School of Micro-finance for Women
• Member of the Indian Parliament and of the Indian Planning Commission from 1986 to 1989
• Chair for Women’s World Banking, the International Alliance of Home-based Workers (HomeNet) from 1980 to 1998, and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organizing (WIEGO)
• Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation
• Honorary Doctorate degree in Humane Letters by Harvard University in June 2001
• The civilian honor of Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1985
• The Padma Bhushan in 1986
• The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1977
• The Right Livelihood Award in 1984
• Chosen for the Niwano Peace Prize for 2010 for contribution to uplift poor women in India

Elaben has always said, “There are risks in every action. Every success has the seed of some failure. But it does not matter. It is how you go about it. That is the real challenge.”

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=BORN%20TO%20SERVE%20THROUGH%20SEWA_488