Tuesday, 8 March 2011

100 years of International women's day - part one: Tribute to women fighters of Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
This March 8 marks the 100th episode of the International Women's Day. Though India joined the celebrations on a full note only after Independence, the contribution individual Indian women made in the 
last 100 years for a better India continues to inspire the world.
Women from Andhra Pradesh took the lead in shaping society on various fronts - be it  education of girls, property rights for women, hospitals for women and children, fight against social evils like dowry, Jogini system, alcoholism and casteism or eradication of child labour, and empowerment of the girl child.
Andhra Pradesh has in the last 100 years produced many a stalwart woman, who though faced with several social odds, stood firm in their cause till  they translated it into reality. Many women  participated in India's freedom struggle and Gandhiji's Khaddar movement and salt satyagraha.
Women were in the forefront of peasants' and workers' movements and in many instances they acted as a pressure group. If Durgabai Deshmukh played a second-to-none role in designing India's Constitution, Moturi Udayam fought for the benefits of working class. Muthu Lakshmi Reddy was instrumental in the formation 
of Women's India Association in 1917 while Pedda Kameswaramma and Hilla Rustomji shaped the course of All  India Women's Conference in 1927.
If the centuries old Jogini system in parts of Telangana is now part of the history, it  is thanks to the untiring efforts of Hemalata Lavanam. And if the problem of child labour is under check, and many of the  streetchildren are back in schools, it is because of  the singular efforts of women champions like Shanta Sinha.
Even before India achieved Independence, royal women like Niloufer Khanam and Durru  Shevar, daughters-in-law of Nizam VII Mir Osman Ali Khan, took up the cause of empowerment of women. Durru Shevar 
mobilised women from all sections of society and formed the Women Volunteers' Corps.
Niloufer Khan, who was active in social circles, was instrumental in the opening of  Niloufer Hospital. She donated her Mehr money to set up the exclusive hospital for women and children, perhaps the  biggest of its kind in the government sector in the country. Duvvuri Subbamma was AICC member for 14 years between 
1922 to 1934. She was in the forefront of the Kakinada Congress meet in 1922.
There were freedom fighters and champions like Durgabai Deshmukh, who formed the Andhra  Mahila Sabha to empower women by providing them  education and health care. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi,  whom she met as a 12-year-old girl, Durgabai Deshmukh jumped into freedom struggle and led the salt  satyagraha movement in Chennai in 1930. Andhra Pradesh was also the second home of Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu,  who spent a part of her life in Hyderabad.
Dubugunta Roshamma, an illiterate woman from Nellore district, brought a government on  its knees through her movement against sale of liquor. The State government was forced to impose total  prohibition, which was withdrawn a few years later. The State has produced women leaders like V Koteswaramma, pioneer of 
women education in coastal Andhra, Malladi Subbamma, writer and women rights activist, Saraswathi Gora, 
humanist who fought against the caste system, and Muppala Ranganayakamma, who gave women's movement a new direction  through her writings.

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