Women Empowerment – A Lot Achieved, Yet a Long Way to Go

India is a land of rich culture and heritage and is well known as a tourist destination across the globe. It is the land which has produced so many great people and has lots of reasons to be proud of. At the same time, it has its own drawbacks. For instance, the way the society looks at women is not very promising.

In India, we often find women being humiliated in public. Everyday we get to see many anti-social activities being reported through the media. There are places where female foeticide is still being practised, especially in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Girl children are deprived of even their basic education and, instead, sent to work as labourers.

In some regions, women even fear to step out of their houses after nightfall. They prefer to spend time with family rather than going out alone because of the fear that gets instilled in them when they hear of different atrocities being meted out to women around them.

Even after all these are exposed, the authorities concerned do not seem to rise to the occasion and, in most of the cases, they turn a blind eye towards this issue. This shows that obstacles which prevent the empowerment of women are present within the society itself.

In the next few paragraphs, I will be taking you through the history of Mysore to portray how women led their lives few centuries back and also about a queen who brought about a massive change in the lives of the women of Mysore.

The books of history depict a life of misery and sorrow of the women of Mysore. There was a concept that women after marriage should be confined to the four walls of their house. They were often made to slog day in and day out for the sake of their families. They were denied freedom and their voices suppressed. Poor women were often exploited by the rich.

Adolescent girls who went for work in the houses of the rich were made to toil right from dawn to dusk without even being provided with adequate wages or food. Children too were not spared as they were made to work along with their mothers.

For financial reasons, the unethical act of selling female children and female foeticide was rampant in practice. The state of the widows was still worse. They were considered as a burden to the society and were totally alienated. Many a time, they were abused and they were  forced into inhumane acts such as ?sati?.  In the backdrop of this crisis rose a woman who was determined to put an end to these depravities.

Maharani Kempajammanni was the beloved wife of the then king of Mysore Chamarajendra Wodeyar X. After his demise, the Maharani was appointed as the regent of the kingdom to carry on the administration as her son Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was too young to become the successor of his father.

During the regency period from 1894-1902, she made several efforts for the common weal of Mysore. She was heartbroken when she came to know about the life of the women in her kingdom. This made her realize the absolute necessity of women empowerment and recognized the need of education for their upliftment.

This thought was instrumental in a school being founded in her name. It was upgraded as a high school the very next year and later in 1900, it became a college. The momentum was carried forward once the college came under the control of the Mysore University and more developments in terms of infrastructure and facilities were introduced.

Students, especially girls, were provided with hostels and houses in Mysore. Widows were given training at the Teacher Training Institutes and appointed as teachers. Scholarships too were awarded to girl students and high salaries were paid to the teachers.

Over the years, this institution continued to play a pivotal role in reforming the lives of women. Finally all the hard work bore fruit. Three women K D Rukminiamma, Shrirangamma and Subbamma passed their B A examination with high first class and were appointed faculty members in Maharani’s College, thus fulfilling the queen’s dream. This was the stepping stone for the women of Mysore to reach greater heights and was a landmark in the history of Mysore.

Though women have risen to that state where they can exercise rights equal to those of men, still there is no security for them in the society. The government has a major responsibility of bringing the offenders to justice and put them behind bars with solid proofs and evidences. This would be a huge leap in our efforts to better the state of women as a whole.

All said and done, we should be really proud of certain women who have overcome all these obstacles and reached the pinnacle of success. Beginning from the first Indian woman to surpass the heights of Mount Everest, Bachendri Pal, the golden girl P T Usha, the first Indian woman astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, the first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, up to our esteemed president of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the list goes on and on and beyond any doubt they have brought laurels to the country.

Today’s women are multi-talented and are capable of reaching even greater heights. We see their growing presence in varied fields, ranging from politics and science to business administration.

In conclusion, here’s hoping that in the days to come, we see a promising change in the mindset of the people and revamping in government policies in favour of women so that they could lead a dignified and secure life, thereby making Mother India proud.

Vande Mataram.

[PS : I thank my family, especially my mother for providing me with the information about the Maharani, as this was a part of her research work for the PhD degree]

Author: Sonu Yeldose