With changing times the contribution of the Indian women activists became more important. Their concern with the status of Indian women led to different social works and contemporary India has also witnessed the rise of politically affiliated women organisations. With more and more Indian women opting for employment, issues relating to their safety are a major concern for Indian women activists as well. Besides these the Indian women activists have also lent their voices for environmental causes.
Gauri Maa, also revered as 'Gauridasi' or 'Gauriananda', was a devoted disciple of the Indian saint, Ramakrishna Paramahansa and a friend to his wife Sarada Devi. She was born on 1857 and was inspired to strive for imparting education amongst Indian womenfolk by Paramahansa. She had founded Saradeshwari Ashram in Kolkata during 1895 wherein education was provided to single, married and widowed ladies, free of cost. She believed that women's education would lead to their development, both intellectually and spiritually, and that education was a 'national duty'. She died in 1938.
Savitribai Jyotirao Phule was a famous social reformer who played a crucial role in enhancing the women's right in the country, particularly during the British Raj in India. She was supported in her efforts by her husband Mahatma Jyotirao Phule. Savitribai Phule gained fame as the very first female teacher of the oldest women's school in the nation and was also respected as the trailblazer of modern Marathi poetry. She installed a school meant for untouchable girls during 1852 and continued teaching despite being verbally abused. Stones were also thrown at her. The Maharashtra Government has started an award in Savitribai's name to honour 'Women Who Work Social Causes'.
Janaki Devi Bajaj
Born on 7th January, 1893 Janaki Devi Bajaj contributed towards Indian freedom struggle through active participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1932. The British Government imprisoned her for her role on the movement and she was an associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Besides, she also promoted spinning on 'charkha' or the concept of 'Khadi', improvement of the lives of 'harijans', temple entry of harijans in 1928 and 'goseva'. Following Indian independence from British Raj, she worked for 'Bhoodan Movement' along with Vinoba Bhave. Several awards and educational organisations have been named in the honour of this Padma Vibhushan awardee, including Janaki Devi Bajaj Institute of Management Studies.
Also known as 'Birbala' and 'shaheed' or martyr, Kanaklata Barua was an Assamese freedom fighter who was shot dead at a tender age of 17, while she headed a dead squad known as 'Mrityu Bahini' at the Quit India Movement, carrying an Indian national flag. The group comprised youths from Gohpur subdivision, Assam. The Bahini aimed to hoist the flag at the police station on 20th September, 1942 and were not discouraged even by threats from the officer-in-charge of the police station, Rebati Mahan Som. Therefore, while the Mritya Bahini proceeded, the police shot Kanaklata and later Mukunda Kakoti, who took the flag from her.
Aruna Roy is the head of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana or 'Workers and Peasants Strength Union', and is renowned for being an important leader of the Right to Information movement which eventually resulted in the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005. She was born on 26th June, 1946. She was a member of the organisation called National Advisory Council and also the Social Work and Research Centre or SWRC in the region of Tilonia, Rajasthan. She had been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in the year 2000 and the famous Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management in 2010.
Medha Patkar is well-known social activist who played an important role in the Narmada Bachao Andolan and was born in 1954. She had filed a public interest petition against Anna Hazare, Lavasa and other members belonging to the National Alliance of People's Movements or NAPM in the Bombay High Court. She is the recipient of numerous awards like Goldman Environment Prize, Deena Nath Mangeshkar Award, Mahatma Phule Award, Human Rights Defender's Award from Amnesty International and the Right Livelihood Award, 1991. She also received the M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from Vigil India Movement, 1999.
Recognised as an Indian author and political activist, Suzanna Arundhati Roy is also involved in human rights and environmental concerns. She was born on 24th November, 1961. She supported Kashmiri separatism following fierce mass rebellions for the independence of Kashmir, from India which included the rallies of 5, 00, 000 separatists who led those processions in Kashmir, on 18th August, 2008. Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP and Indian National Congress or INC criticised the claims of Arundhati Roy who asserted that Kashmir rallies signified that Kashmiris aimed at a separation from India, rather than a union. Along with Medha Patkar, she campaigned against Narmada Bachao Andolan Project and donated the money received from the Booker Prize for the undertaking.
Other Indian Women Activists
Apart from these influential women activists, India has produced many other strong women's activists who continue to motivate innumerable Indian women. Parbati Giri, Rama Devi Choudhury, Mithan J. Lam, Mithuben Petit, Tanguturi Suryakumari, Mallika Sarabhai, Bhanwari Devi, Mahasweta Devi, Anuradha Ramanan, Brinda Karat, Ruchira Gupta, etc.
Eminent Indian women activists hail from the fields of academics, art, literature and others. Organisations, such as, National Council for Women, Stree Sangharsh Samiti, Purogami Sanghatan and several others have been formed by the Indian women activists for safeguarding their rights and fighting for the oppressed.
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Indian Women Activists