ROLE OF WOMEN IN NATION BUILDING
“Our women have a very great part to play in the progress of our country, as the mental and physical contact of women with life is much more lasting and comprehensive than that of men. For nothing was it said that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. In the apron string of woman is hidden the revolutionary energy which can establish paradise on this earth.”
– Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Woman is the magnificent creation of God, a multifaceted personality with the power of benevolence, adjustability, integrity and tolerance. She is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental faculty, a protector and provider, the embodiment of love and affection. The role given to women in a society is a measuring rod and true index of its civilisational and cultural attainment. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore “Woman is the builder and moulder of a nation’s destiny. Though delicate and soft as a lily, she has a heart, far stronger and bolder than that of man. She is the supreme inspiration for man’s onward march”. The status of Indian women has seen many ups and downs from the ancient time to the present day.
With the dawn of freedom, particularly during India’s national struggle, the position of women took a turn for the better. Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Rajendra Prasad began to think deeply about the urgent need of women’s emanicipation. They realised that so long as women of the country were not uplifted and granted equal status with men in all walks of life – political, economic, domestic, educational, India could neither progress nor make any significant advance in any field. Gandhiji gave a clarion call for women’s participation in the freedom movement. Sarojini Naidu, Mira Ben, Sucheta Kriplani, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Aruna Asaf Ali were some of the leading women freedom fighters.
In the present time, a large number of women have attained dignity, individuality and respect in their respective fields. They are free to join any service. In the post-independent India, women have played a significant role as doctors, engineers, judges, pilots, scientists, diplomats, legislators and even as a Prime Minister. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, our late Prime Minister, was held in high esteem the world over. Vijayalakshmi Pandit created a record by becoming the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly. In the last two decades, women have really come into their own. In the modern age, we find the role of women in every field. The myth that certain fields were only meant for men has been demolished by women. Women have proved to be more vibrant, dynamic, sincere and perfect in every field. They have the ability to immerse themselves wholly in any task they undertake. Modern women in the present age occupy top rank and attain immense success in all the fields such as sports, politics, performing arts, Police, administration, medicine, etc. Mother Teresa, P.T. Usha, M.S. Subbulaxmi, Ms. Kiran Bedi, Dr. Padmavati, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, the great environmentalist and a social activist Medha Patkar and Promilla Kalhan have become great names in different fields of their work. Sonali Banerjee of Calcutta became the first Indian woman Marine Engineer and Bula Choudhury brought fame to our country for crossing the English Channel twice. Bachendri Pal conquered Mt. Everest twice.
Now with the encouragement of co-education, women have cast off the age-old inferiority complex and they are marching side by side with men in every walk of life. Women are actually proving to be academically better and socially more active. When we come across the results of the Competitive Examinations in All India Services, Civil and Police and Indian Universities, we are happily surprised to note that women capture most of merit seats. They are also aware of the fast changing social milieu and they are making sustained efforts to scale the ladders of social progress by dint of their zeal and dynamism. They are contributing significantly towards the building of the nation.
Women writers like Mahashweta Devi, Pratibha Roy, Arundhati Roy have established their credentials in the modern literary world and contributed to the literary excellence of the nation.
It is heartening to note that today we have in India, the educated women who are very keen and efficient on taking up administrative work. We are amazed to see the wonderful work women are doing as officers, typists, clerks, receptionists. It has been noticed that they are quick to understand every work and have won the applause from the bureaucracy. Moreover, they cheer up others with a sweet smile and they can win over others to their point of view. They are competing for Indian Administrative and Foreign Service and many other Services too. We have women as lawyers, judges and revenue officers. They are cool-headed, dispassionate, objective and impartial.
There are certain professions and careers which the women should choose because mentally, physically and culturally they are more suitable to these professions than men. Today, women are proving their worth in the field of teaching, one of the noble professions. As children’s minds are delicate and very sensitive, women can teach them with more affection and sincerity than men. The Kindergarten and Montessori System of education are being implemented mostly by women in India.
In the field of healthcare also women as doctors and nurses can give a healing touch to patients. It has been found that women on account of their tender hearts are better nurses and due to their naturally delicate and soft hands they are better doctors. Therefore, it can be said: “A woman’s voice is a cure and her touch a balm”. Florence Nightingale, the “Lady with a Lamp,” made history and showed the way to womankind how efficiently and nobly women can mitigate the sufferings of humanity in war and epidemic.
Even, in the field of Family Planning, women can render admirable service of explaining to the village women the importance of Family Planning by taking them into confidence and can guide them by creating awareness about different methods of birth control. If all the educated women accept the challenge of time and make up their mind to serve the nation in checking the population growth, it will greatly contribute to the socio-economic progress of the nation. Every woman can’t become a judge, or an administrator, but many a woman can become a nurse, a teacher and a social worker.
Women have come out of their homes and brushed shoulders with men as co-workers – as managers, officers, TV and radio newsreaders, anchors, musicians, clerks, stenographers and what not. We have also many talented and successful women entrepreneurs who are doing commendable work by their excellent business management skills. Women are no longer physically unfit for military and police departments. In the whole length and breadth of India, everyone has read and heard of Ms. Kiran Bedi, an IPS officer with an iron hand and a soft heart craving for reformation in the state of prisons in India. Women should be encouraged to join these departments. India does not lack in woman power. They should be recruited in Police and Military, B.S.F., C.I.S.F. Delhi, Mumbai and U.P. Police have raised Mahila Battalions. With the leadership taken by Miss Ahluwalia, we shall soon have skilled women Pilots to take upto the realm of the sky.
Really, women are less selfish, more dedicated to duty and have much patience than men by nature. In order to make optimum use of our vast woman power, we must liberate Indian woman of many social taboos. However, mere legislation cannot emancipate the lot of our women. This needs a radical change in our mental make-up and our social structure. For this, we shall have to foster a social emancipating spirit in our everyday life. The conservative male chauvinistic attitude shall have to give way to liberalism. It can be said with a sense of pride and confidence that the future of women in India is quite bright and that our prosperity will be safe in their hands. Napoleon was right when he declared that by educating the women, we educate and uplift the whole nation.
In order to give them more scope of participation in the economic growth of the country, the government has implemented major programmes like Mahila Samridhi Yojana, Women’s Development Corporation, etc. The female literacy on the whole is on the rise. According to Rabindranath Tagore “Woman is God’s best creation”. She adds beauty and charm to every aspect of life. To quote former Miss Universe, Sushmita Sen, “Women in India have now become more aware of their rights as individuals and are now opting for higher position at work, at the same time being a perfect housewife at home.” This is the stage at which women have reached today. Only the benign and elevating presence of women on the top can help bring in a semblance order in the present situation. Emotional, affectionate, caring and yet firm, a woman is the perennial source of inspiration for man in the odyssey of life.
Women like Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Margaret Thatcher, Chandrika Kumaratunga have left an indelible mark not only on their nations but also on the international level. In the past women like Joan of Arc and Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi did prove the strength of their convictions. Modern women have risen far above the domestic drudgery. They are educated and aware enough to deal with any situation competently. In the present times they are no longer the inanimate objects. They have struggled hard to establish the identity of their own. They possess enough strength and self-confidence in a brave new world. They are fully capable of articulating their hopes and aspirations – whether it is ruling a country, scaling Mount Everest, flying in space or displaying effective managerial skill. It reminds one of Lord Byron, who said, “There is a tide in the affairs of women God knows nowhere!” In the present chaotic world only women can handle the situation with patience and perseverance and they are able to do it in a better and more systematic manner.
To Manu, the ancient law-giver, “woman is divine, holy and pure. Therefore, she is worshipped.” According to him, “Gods reside in the home where women are honoured.” For Mahatma Gandhi, “without the emancipation of women, independence was meaningless”. He believes that woman is, really a nobler sex. She should not regard herself helpless, weak and dependent. He was of the view that woman is the cultural backbone of the society. She is “the incarnation of Ahimsa” – infinite love which again means “infinite capacity for suffering.” Education, according to him, can enable women to assert their right. His advice to the educated women was to conserve the best tradition of Indian culture. He wanted them to participate in the governance of the country. Gandhiji’s efforts resulted in the participation of Indian women in the State governments in 1937 and in the Central government in 1947.
Indeed, it was Gandhiji who succeeded in raising the position of women in India by making them conscious of their rights. As a result of the efforts of Gandhiji, the position of women has changed and they are gradually emerging as a force in social, cultural as well as political fields of our country. The talent, patience, inner strength, power of tolerance, insight, efficiency of a responsible and good woman help in the governance of the country and its overall progress. Therefore, Ralph Waldo Emerson says “A sufficient measure of civilisation is the influence of good women”. Victor Hugo once said “Men have sight women insight.” Women run to extremes, take advanced measures for the progress of the country with their power of mental strength and extraordinary talent. Women have occupied a pivotal position today and have achieved eminence in different fields. In present times, several women’s organisations are working for the enlightenment of women in India. Some of such organisations are Women’s Indian Association, National Commission for Women, National Council of Women in India, All India Women’s Conference, Seva Sadan, Jyoti Singh, etc. Despite the hurdles like male chauvinism and indifference towards them, women have proved their worth as teachers, administrators, officers, entrepreneurs, doctors and engineers, nurses, computer scientists, and almost in all the spheres of activity and every walk of life, contributing immensely to nation building. The Government, too, has been taking measures to help them. Now the women in India are heading towards advancement. By dint of their devotion, dedication and determination, women like Mother Teresa, Ramadevi, Bhagini Nivedita, Indira Gandhi and many others played a vital role in the building of the nation. “Mother’s Day” is a real tribute to women who shaped generation after generation. It is high time we enact the legislation for Reservation for women in Parliament. Women have already proved their credentials in Panchayats and Municipalities.