March 8th is celebrated as the International Women’s Day every year. More than 100 countries celebrate the achievements of women in social, cultural, economic, and political fields. Different events are organized at workplaces and women rallies are held for the empowerment of women. Many countries observe this day as an official holiday while in other countries women receive gifts and flowers form men. Huge sale and discounts are offered to women customers at shopping malls and restaurants. The newspaper on the IWD is loaded with articles unfolding the great achievements of women around the world. All over the social media, people share stories to reveal the true fight against injustice, inequality, abuse and harassment.But do you know from where this was originated? Why there was a need to do so?
In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding their voting rights, better pay, and shorter working hours. This was the biggest problems working women were facing. After about a year, one of the American Socialist Party had declared first Women’s Day on 28th of Feb in the US.Since then, the wave of women’ rights were spread all over the nation. In 1910, Clara Zetkin who was the leader of ‘Women’s Office’ for Social Democratic Party in Germany suggested an Idea to celebrate this day as an International Women’s Day. Her efforts succeeded and so 17 countries agreed to her suggestion.In 1911, International Women Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19. And in the year 1913, the date was changed and transferred to 8th March.
A huge progress has been made in the struggle for gender equality, but still women face domestic violence, assault, rape, low pay, discrimination.To spread the awareness regarding the inequality faced by women, many conferences and art performances are held. Famous women personalities come forward with different associations and stand for women rights. Here are some of the female social activists of India with their contribution to the society:
Leila Seth, born in Lucknow in 1930was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court and then she became the first woman to become the Chief Justice of State High Court (Himachal Pradesh). She was one of the three judges of the Justice Verma Committee to look into the overhaul of rape laws in India after the horrifying Delhi gang rape 2012. Leila Seth who was a strong supporter of women-rights was responsible to the amendment of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act in 2005 for daughter’s equal rights to joint family property. She supported to the rights of the LGBT community in the nation.Last year on May 5th, Justice Leila Seth died due to a heart attack and as per her wish no funeral was held,as she donated her eyes and other body organs for medical research purposes.
Flavia Agnes is an Indian Lawyer who deals in marital, divorce, and property laws. She is also an author who has written and published many articles regarding the minorities and the law, gender and the law, and law in the context of women’s movements and domestic violence. She is also a co-founder of an organization which provides legal representation for women called ‘MAJLIS’. She herself had to deal with a bad marriage and faced domestic violence, and this inspired her to become a women’s rights lawyer. She contributedto the domestic issues like assault, dowry,and sexual harassment through a campaign formed in 1979 called Forum AgainstOppression of Women (FAOW).
Sampat pal is a social activist from Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh. The founder of the Gulabi Gang works for the women welfare and empowerment. She participated in a popular TV reality show Bigg Boss 6 in 2012 where she was seen wearing pink sarees. Shestarted this gang to fight the numerous forms of social injustice done to women. So she gathered females of her village and made a gang named ‘Gulabi Gang’ which means the ‘Pink Gang’ which takes actions on the men abusing women. Allgang womenare seen wearing pink sarees and holding a bamboo stick in their hands. They all come together to punish the guilty man till he apologizes in front of all. The group has more than 4 lakh women members across the state.
Shaheenc Mistri is a social activist, educator, and founder of AkankshaFoundation. Akanksha Centre was first founded in1989,enrolling 15 children and her college friends as employees, which eventually changed to Akanksha Foundation. Itis anon-profitable educational scheme that providesafter school tutoring to poor students. This foundation has now reached over 6500 children in School Project Model.This foundation has won international honors due to its teaching methodology. The centers and schools are in Mumbai and Pune. Since 2008, she is also the CEO of Teach For India.
KiranBedi is the real icon of heroism in India. She is a social activist, former tennis player, politician, and a retired Indian Police Service Officer. She has made the nation proudby giving her outstanding contribution as a police officer, standing for women’s safety, and fighting against corruption. She has inspired many young women of the country. She is the first lady IPS Officer who worked out on many projects to bring positive changes in the society. During her posting in Tihar Jail, she brought in change by initiating Yoga and Meditation in the Jail and also addressed the complaints made by the prisoners. She launchedtwo NGO’s named NavjyotiDelhi Foundation in 1988 and India Vision Foundation in1994 for the rehabilitation of drug addict, women empowerment, illiteracy, and rural and community development. The Navjyoti Delhi Foundation was awarded with Serge SotiroffMemorial Award by the United Nations. KiranBedi is honored withmanysuch awards for her sincerity, bravery, and dedication towards the betterment of the nation.
Shabana Azmi is an Indian film actress as well as a member of Rajya Sabha. She has been a committed social activist,supports child survival, and gives a strong fight by campaigning for women’s rights, plight for slum dwellers, etc. She is a leading advocate of AIDS awareness in India and has campaigned against exclusion of victims of AIDS. She had won many awards for her social services provided for public. She also visits several universities for the awareness of social issues of India. Shabana Azmi runs Mijwan Welfare Society (MWS), a NGO founded by her father and a renowned poet Late Kaifi Azmi. MWS works for the empowerment of the villagers of a small town Mijwan in Uttar Pradesh. MWS runs high school and inter college for girls, computer training center, and sewing and tailoring center.
Nivedita Menon is a feminist writer and professor of Political thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She has stood for several political issues including the nuclear power and the Kashmir conflicts. She was criticized by the BJP and the media on her involvement in the 2016 JNU protests.She has written many books on feminism and politics. She also writes on the current issues in the journal Economic and Political Weekly, Kafila.org – the online news portal, and many newspapers.Some of her recent books are Seeing Like a Feminist (2012), Power and Contestation: India Since 1989 (2007), and Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law (2004). Nivedita also received the A. K. Ramanujan Award for translation from Hindi and Malyalam into English in 1994.