Women and the Wind of Change

Book Review by Nikita Mandhani

Author: Dr. Vinita Kaul 

imagesThe women of India have witnessed both minor and major transformations in their status and position over times immemorial. Many books have been written on the subject of Women and a plethora of women issues and movements brought forth for their resolution. But, Dr. Vinita Kaul handles an extensive array of women related discussions in this book that was first published in the year 2000. ‘Women and the Wind of Change’ extends to roughly 500 pages that will compel you to picture the conditions of women from prominent old days of Sati, extreme prejudice and conservatism to the era of developments and enhancements that came about as an effort of some great leaders and the common populace.

What I like the most about her writing is that it is simplistic and undeviating in its approach and comprises of comprehensive descriptions concerning subjects varying from the part of women in the freedom movement to the augmentation of female education and employment. Kaul tries to draw attention to the ancient practices of purdah, child-marriage, pitiable dealing of widows and the pivotal role of men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi in this struggle for women’s equality. The book covers particulars of efforts carried out by Margaret Cousins and Annie Besant along with organizations like the Indian Women’s Association, the All India Women’s Conference etc. Thus, what this book provides you with is a thorough historical background ranging up to the year 2000 mentioning facts that are commonly unfamiliar or neglected.

There are full-fletched chapters on Women’s education, empowerment, employment, the inheritance laws, the crimes that they face, the constitutional rights that they own, their position in the politics of India, health issues, gender bias, women’s services in the Armed forces, the tale of the Dalit women, various NGOs and reforms and the rising status of women in different realms. It cites examples of various striking incidents and events imperative to the women’s circumstances and quotes statements from different people at diverse levels to portray the opinions and views of the masses. What’s remarkable is the technique in which the author analyzes the past and the present to give an idea of the plausible future of women. She adds on with a few personal experiences and profound descriptions of events that need more prominence.

Kaul has also included a detailed narrative of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) which was founded in 1972 by Ela Bhatt in an effort to give the underprivileged section of the society a modicum of dignity. She talks about the traditional as well as the modern occupations covered by SEWA to address issues related to gender, poverty and equity, thereby organizing women from all walks of life. She evidently states that one of the truest measures of a nation’s advancement is the state of its women and going with the declaration, she does write about women from the perspective of someone who has seen what they are facing, how they are living and the manner in which they are suffering.

In Women and the Wind of Change, you’ll find almost every chief aspect of women’s development in India and you’ll see how things have changed and are still revolutionizing. This book turns out to be a great resource for Women Literature and can be useful for anyone who is interested in feminism, Women studies, Women empowerment or in the generalization dealing with the women of India. It’s a bit on the lengthy side but then you can’t expect all-inclusive details to be brief. I like Kaul’s approach and language along with her multifaceted sense of comprehension of women’s problems of almost all forms.

Do not forget famous activist Ela Bhatt’s lines as quoted in the said book:

We not only want a piece of the pie’
We also want to choose the flavour,
And the know-how to make it ourselves.

What do you want then?

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