when we talk about international women’s day, we often talk about its roots in Europe and America, but what about India. what do we know about the women’s movement in India? India is one of the rare countries where women got the right to vote alongside men in the same year our country became independent. the United States took nearly 144 years and the UK took nearly 100 years to give women equal voting rights.
that being said, many of us still remain oblivious of the radical nature of the women’s movement in our own country. so as a refresher, let’s talk about some of the most iconic women’s strikes that shaped the women’s movement in India.
Quit India Movement
women played a very important role in India’s independence movement. in fact, when Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned alongside many prominent nationalists because of civil disobedience in 1942, it was the women of India who took the charge. they led demonstrations and mobilized people to participate in the Quit India movement; the same movement that would eventually lead to the end of the colonial rule in India.
women have always been portrayed as closer to nature but it’s not only as of the meek spiritual creatures that nurture. when required, women can create a movement to protect the nature that shelters us. so, after devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 1970, women living in the villages in the sub-Himalayan districts launched a fierce movement against deforestation. the Chipko movement sparked many similar protests all across the country in the 1980s which eventually led to the ban of cutting forests in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and many other states for the next 15 years.
grunwick factory dispute
migrant women from south Asia worked in the grunwick factory in London where a major movement was started by Jayaben Desain in 1976 after her son was fired from the factory unfairly. over 130 workers joined her in protesting for the right to unionize and better workplace conditions and most of them were fired. this ignited massive protests supported by the British trade unions. even though the protests did not lead to any groundbreaking changes in the system, it did overturn the image of a docile South Asian woman.
The Nirbhaya Protest
this one hit close to home with women and men coming to the streets to ask for the most basic of rights – safety on the streets. after the horrible rape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi in 2012, thousands of women demanded safety, demanded justice and the protests sparked real legislative change.
women have been fighting for their rights for a very long time. for every strike, every protest, every woman that has ever stepped on the street, we need to remember how far we have come. we have to remember that we can never take our freedom for granted. this is the legacy that we need to protect.
onwards and upwards!
until next time, live aastey!