Self Employed Women Association
Self Employed Women Association
The first attempt to organize a women trade union was made in Ahmadabad by a Gandhian socialist leader, Ella Bhatt, attached to the women wing of Textile Labour Association. She formed the Self Employed Women Association in the year 1972 to organize the women working in various trades in the informal sector. They all suffered due to extremely low wages, poor working conditions lack of training, harassment by the authorities or middlemen and police
The SEWA helped the women to become economically self-sufficient to give them freedom from exploitation by assurance of regular work and access to opportunities for development.
The aim of the SEWA was to improve their working provide technical and economic assistance, help them to sell their products at better prices by collective bargaining and improve their economic status.
Thus the SEWA helped the poor working women to improve their economic status and become self-sufficient, because economic dependence is one of the major causes of their exploitation by men.
The conditions of famine and drought affected the urban areas in Maharashtra, which led to the rising prices and black-marketing. Mrinal Gore of the Socialist Party and Ahilya Rangekar of CPI (M) formed the United Front, Anti-Price-Rise Front, to mobilize the women in the cities against inflation. It became a mass movement demanding price-control and proper distribution of essential commodities at the fair prices.
The women groups also raided the premises of the black-marketers. It was a mass movement of urban housewives against economic hardships affecting their daily life.
Nav Nirman Samiti
It was initially a student protest against rising prices and political disorder but became a massive movement when middle-class women joined it. Women participated in these movements because rise in expenditure of essential commodities had adversely affected them and hoarding and black-marketing had caused a lot of hardships to them. The Anti-Price-Rise Front and Nav Nirman Samiti indirectly helped in crystallizing women’s identity as a group.
In Andhra the first feminist group formed the Progressive Organization of Women (POW). This group stressed the existence of gender-based oppression and organized women against it. The manifesto of this group emphasized on the concept of equality between men and women in every walk of life. According to them the two primary structures of exploitation are sexual division of labour on the biological basis and the culture which provides justification to such division.
The year 1975 saw a sudden development of the feminist movement. It was also declared as the International Women’s Year by the United Nations. The declaration also provided some focus on the various activates. Influenced by the POW, the progressive women in Pune formed the Purogami Stree Sangathan and in Bombay founded Stree Mukti Sangathan.
Lal Nishan Party, a splinter group of the CPI, brought out a special issue on women. Socialists organized a conference on devdasis and Muslim women. In Hyderabad radical women students of the POW organized campaign against sexual harassment, dowry and bride-burning. Issues such as dowry, brideburning, violence and sexual harassment of the women were debated all over India.
The proclamation of Emergency in 1975 and the suspension of civil liberties led to the suspension of the WMI. But with the coming of Janata Party to power in 1977, the movement was again revived. In the later seventies and early eighties the WMI was mainly dominated by urban groups
By 1980s women groups were active all over India. They organized posterexhibitions; meetings, study circles and activists’ meetings to debate issues related with women and started campaigns against them. A ‘Forum Against Rape’ was formed against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Mathura rape case
The WMI is also concerned with woman’s control over her body. It debated issues such as women’s health, violence, rape, wife-battering, divorce, right to maintenance, child custody, etc.
They are also concerned not only with the enactment of legislation in favour of women but also with amendments to exist laws a anti-women. The WMI is equally concerned about the proper implementation of existing laws concerning women and their rights.
WMI in its current phase is not only concerned with education of the women but is also equally concerned acute the right kind of education, textbooks having women content in the proper perspective. Many universities have opened women and development centres, introduced women-oriented courses. Women Development Centres are conducting academic researches on women issues.
The Women’s Organisations is now concerned with equality which is genuine. They do not want reservations alone but want proper share in all material resources, means of production, education and in decision-making process. The progressive result is the outcome of changing social, economic and political reality.
The women’s organization is an ongoing process. It started as a protest against negative attitude towards women and their problems. It moved on to its second phase where they denied biological explanation of existing disparities between the two sexes, then to the third where men and women are equal.
In the early nineteenth century it started with humanitarian concerns for the suffering of the women and need for reform. By twentieth century the emphasis has shifted to stressing women’s right to be treated as useful members of society. By the late twentieth century it has moved to women’s right to self-determination