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Women's Equality Day is an annual celebration that is observed on 26 August every year. Celebrated in the United States, the idea is to commemorate the nineteenth amendment to the United Nations Constitution that took place in 1920. Before the amendment, the constitution prohibited women to vote. As per the amendment, the federal and the state government can now not prohibit women from practising their votes. But this didn't happen in a day. Several women fought for years to bring equality in not only the voting system but also in other fields.
There was a time when women were deprived of their basic rights such as the right to vote, education, speech and much more. There were times when violence against women was not considered to be a crime. As a result, women underwent several tortures and ill-treatment for many years. But then a few women chose to put a stop at the injustice against women. You may have heard a few names of such women but many of them are still unknown to the world. This Women's Equality Day, let's remember brave women who stood up to fight for women's rights.
1. Durgabai Deshmukh
Image Source: Maps Of India
Born on 15 July 1909, Durgabai Deshmukh was a feminist, social worker, lawyer and a prominent Indian freedom fighter. She was also one of the members of the Indian Constituent Assembly along with the Planning Commission Of India. She was determined to fight for the welfare of women while she was still a child. When she was barely 12 years old, she left her school in the protest of the deliberate imposition of English education. She advocated for Hindi-medium education and went on to establish Balika Hindi Paathshala, in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. During a conference of the Indian National Congress in the year 1923 in her hometown Kakinada, she was assigned the duty to ensure that nobody enters the conference without tickets. Soon Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came to enter the conference but he had no tickets. Durgabai didn't allow Pandit Nehru to enter the venue and allowed him only when the organisers brought tickets for him. She said that it was her duty and she can't withstand any exceptions. Throughout her life, she worked for educating women, handicapped, orphans and those who came from the deprived sections of the society. Due to her hard work, she was elected as the first chairperson of the National Council on Women's Education, established in 1958.
2. Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014)
Image source: M Housing
Yuri Kochiyama was a woman who dedicated her entire life to the fights against gender inequality and racism. While her family was deliberately sent to live in the Japanese internment camps in Arkansas, she witnessed the injustice and prejudice against women, Asian-Americans, tribes of black-Americans and many others. Yuri Kochiyama along with her husband often invited activists to come to her place for dinner and discuss the strategies to work against injustice on the basis of gender and race.
3. Savitri Bai Phule (3 January 1831- 10 March 1897)
Savitri Bai Phule was the first woman teacher in India. She was also a social reformer, poet and educationalist who was a native to Maharashtra. With the help of her husband Jyoti Rao Phule, she advocated for women's rights and education. In 1948, she opened the first girls' school. Not only this, but she also taught in that school despite being ill-treated by the people. She also worked against discrimination on the basis of gender and caste.
4. Viji Penkoottu
Image source: Edexlive
Popularly known for her ‘Right to Sit' movement, Viji Penkoottu is a popular woman activist from Kerala. She launched her ‘Right to Sit' in Kozhikode which fetched her worldwide recognition from the BBC. She launched this campaign after she witnessed how women working in malls of Midhayitheru, etc. were not allowed to sit or use the washrooms. She found that this is practised not only in Kozhikode but in many parts of Kerala. This is when she decided to fight against prejudice. She gathered the women from the all-women trade union and fought for the essential right of saleswomen.
5. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Born in Mexico, Frida Kahlo used her artwork to campaign against the malpractices prevalent in society. She used her work to spread awareness against abortion, taboos related to breastfeeding, miscarriage, birth, etc. She emphasised on bisexuality and said it's okay to have distinct sexual preferences. She also talked about how women can have their own choices and opinions.
6. Audre Lorde (1934- 1992)
Audre Lorde was a poet, women's rights activist and feminist. She was born blind and had a speech impediment. For her entire life, she worked against the injustice against the women who belonged to the black community. She campaigned for equal rights for women belonging to every section of society. She also came out to be a lesbian and said that it was okay to have your own sexual orientation. Through her poems and writings, she encouraged women to be strong and capable of making their own decisions.
7. Kamla Bhasin
Kamla Bhasin is an Indian poet, feminist, author and activist. She has fought a long way against gender inequality, poverty, human rights and education. Since 1970, she has worked against the prejudice prevalent against women in South Asian countries. She is an active member of JAGORI, an training and resource organisation for women. She also serves as a member of SANGAT which happens to be a feminist organisation. Not only this, but some of her campaigns also work for the eradication of poverty and hunger in the rural and urban areas.
8. Sampat Pal Devi
Image source: Starsunfolded
Sampat Pal Devi who belongs to Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh runs an organisation called Gulab Gang which comprises women. The gang members are mostly women and they wear pink sarees. They deal with injustice and violence against women. They are often seen carrying bamboo sticks to either rescue women from domestic violence, molestations or deal with patriarchal practices. The gang also works for women's rights in Bundelkhand and neighbouring places. They also work for eradicating poverty and lack of education in the rural areas.
The list is long as there are many women who chose not to undergo the sufferings and ill-treatment in the society. Women often look up to them and draw inspiration to be empowered.