Women’s organizations have not only played legal, social and economic roles but they have historic importance also. During freedom struggle several women’s organizations emerged which paved the way for increasing role of women in sociopolitical activities. The liberal egalitarian ideology under the British Raj created conditions for a social awakening among Indian women. The status of women has been the central concern of many reform movements before and after independence. Leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj were concerned with issues like sati, remarriage, divorce, female education, purdah system, polygamy and dowry. In the early phase of the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi condemned the degrading status of women.
Gandhiji took interest in collective mobilization of women to fight for political freedom as well as for their social and political rights. It was because of his efforts that a large number of women came out of their homes and joined the freedom struggle.
He adopted a revolutionary approach to raise the status of women. argued that women should be freed from social and legal disabilities. He emphasized particularly on the issues of women’s inferior position in matters of guardianship inheritance and marriage
Women’s organizations have been successful in mobilising women across all strata and gave rise to various women’s movements as stated ahead.
Contemporary Women’s Movement which started in the seventies and eighties was very different from the earlier movements and is influenced by two factors:
The WMI which emerged in the seventies was greatly influenced by powerful women movement in the USA which ignited a world-wide debate and protest by women for their emancipation and rights. This influenced the women in India, particularly the urban educated elite classes. There was abundant feminist literature available in the universities, colleges and shops. At the same time there was a lot of growth of Indian literature on socio-economic and socio-cultural issues focusing on women. But this was limited to the urban areas.
The Indian movement had basically emerged due to the widespread disillusionment of women at the grassroots level with the process and model of development, which failed to eliminate poverty, discrimination and injustice to the women. By the 1970s, there was widespread disillusionment among women groups with the process of development and the attitude has gradually started shifting to confrontation. Four movements played a crucial role in the consolidation of the WMI at the grassroots level.