She has sparked countless and endless debates, and has
inspired many an eloquent poet. The irony of her life
is that even as she is worshipped as a Goddess, she is
whipped as a slave.Without her, mankind would cease to
exist. Always playing multiple roles, a woman endures
as a mother, a lover, a friend and a ruler.
MORE FRAGILE BEINGS
-------------------------------- AT HOME WITH WORK
tells us the story of the world, of kingdoms and wars,
and the feats of men. Some women do figure there, but
only when they "give up" their femininity and
adopt a traditionally masculine role, such as Jhansi ki
Rani. Her story is the story of women and work in a hostile
The first place where a woman works is the home. Amita,
a housewife, says, "The woman is the traditional homemaker,
looking after her family's daily needs. But her work goes
unnoticed, as a part of the scheme of things, while the
man's work done in the same period of time is paid for
in money and status." Middle-class housewives used to
belong to this category.
Then there are the traditional occupations of women,
where women worked as teachers, nurses, or domestic
help. Here there is labour for money, but "the payment
is not commensurate with the work done", says Sunita,
a teacher at St. Ann's. Often men working at the same
jobs have less work while they get paid more.
Nowadays, though women are still considered delicate
and fragile, they have spread out into many fields.
Industry, commerce, interiors, textiles, beauty, fitness,
health, writing, welfare… women are ubiquitous in today's
The women of this world have emerged out of their cloistered
selves, giving vent to their aspirations and even their
entity in the building of the world. This fact is slowly
being recognised, yet there are several issues that
need to be addressed with respect to working women.
There is the question of sexual harassment. There is
the right to equality at work and home. Then there is
the question of equal pay for equal work, and the right
to use that pay as they desire.
Women have crossed many a milestone but they still
have miles to go before they sleep.
HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE RULES THE WORLD
-------------------------- LOVING MOTHER
mothers have been deified for the pains they endure
for their children. Earlier, motherhood meant many different
things. It meant being tied to the household, and giving
up many aspirations that the woman might have had. It
meant being ready to suffer anything on account of the
child, from hunger to a wretched marriage. It implied
marriage as a precondition to motherhood: motherhood
without marriage was, and in many societies still is,
a social sin.
This is no longer entirely true. Mothers are no longer
tied to the household. Today, a mother is also a person,
an individual with needs and goals of her own, having
an identity as a woman, and even taking pride in that.
Many of today's mothers are working women, and efficiently
handle things at home and at work. Renuka Choudary manages
her political career as well as her home. Dr. Usha Naik
juggles her practice with her responsibilities at home.
Ms. V. Lalitha cheerfully fulfils her obligations as
researcher, mother and housewife. Jameela Nishat successfully
discharges her duties as a writer and women's rights
activist as well as her duties at home. Such a list
of women is endless.
Women are not ready to stay continue in bad marriages
anymore, in spite of having had children. Though there
is still a social stigma attached to divorce, it has
become a viable option for two main reasons. The economic
independence of women directly influences this decision,
because it gives them both financial independence and
respect. The prevalence of women's resource centres
like Asmita, Ankuram and AP Mahila Samatha, which provide
counselling, legal aid and advice, and training and
support programmes, has also helped this trend.
As the old saying about mothers goes, "To bring up
one life, one life must be melted down." Today mothers
are still hard workers and silent sacrificers, voluntarily
taking a lot of pain and suffering. And this is why
mothers continue to hold the hearts of people everywhere.
PLIGHT OF THE JOGINIS
----------------------- SMILE FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE
a world where the celluloid images of Barkha Dutt, Kiran
Bedi and Shoba De dominate, it is very difficult to
imagine an alternate reality. That is the reality of
the joginis- the victims of an ancient, superstitious
and feudal system.
A jogini or basivi or devali is
a young girl who is 'married' to the deity Pochamma
or Yellama, to ward away any evil
that might befall the family. Once dedicated, she first
becomes the concubine of the village headman, and then,
of all the men in the village. A girl could be dedicated
at any age after her birth. Various versions of this
archaic and abusive system are found in the form of
devadasis in Karnataka, maharis in Kerala,
muralis in Maharashtra and matis in Assam.
The practice is centuries old, but it is still prevalent
in various parts of Andhra Pradesh that were previously
part of the former Hyderbad State. A government survey
revealed the existence of 20,000 joginis in over
five districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The good news is that vigorous efforts of NGOs like
Samskar have prompted active government action. Settlements
have been set up, free land distributed and fixed deposits
opened to rehabilitate the joginis.
But the more difficult task is to change a collective
consciousness that deeply believes in the legitimacy
of this practice. Things are slowly but surely changing.
After 12 challenging years, Samskar claims to have liberated
2000 girls and rehabilitated 1800 more. The practice
is almost eliminated in Nizamabad. The success there
has inspired joginis at other places.
Ms. Hemalata Lavanam, Director of Samskar, says: "If
they can distinguish between being respected and disrespected,
three quarters of the rehabilitation is done."
But perhaps what's really required is that society learns
to give respect.