On 15th August 2010, the Purogami Mahila Sangathan (Maharashtra Committee) held a one-day workshop on “The Emancipation of Women” in CHM College, Ulhasnagar (Thane district). They were fully supported in this endeavour by the youthful Ulhasnagar committee of Lok Raj Sangathan. In each of the three sessions there were prepared presentations. The participants were encouraged to intervene. The discussions were very lively and many issues were clarified.
In the first session, it was explained how the emancipation of women is intimately connected with the emancipation of all people from exploitation. One cannot be achieved without the other. While it is true that there is gross inequality between men and women in our country, one cannot forget that the overwhelming majority of men also are exploited and oppressed. It is to the benefit of both the women and men to fight for the emancipation of everyone from exploitation. Feminism, which regards men as the source of women’s misery and encourages women to fight against men, was promoted as an ideology by the ruling class in the last century to divert and split the movement. It was explained why this ideology is so harmful. Today the emancipation of women is being linked to the question of reservation. After discussion it was agreed that fighting for the reservation of a few seats in legislative bodies is not the way forward. For sixty years, some men have dominated all the legislative organs. Can anyone say that the men of our country have been emancipated from oppression and exploitation? Various myths that are spread on the question of women’s emancipation were also discussed and exposed.
Is emancipation of women possible? When the experience of women in the USSR was presented in another session, none of the participants had any doubts on that score. Soviet women were the first in the world to achieve freedom from exploitation. This happened after the triumphant Socialist revolution in October 1917. The new Soviet power, the power of working people, was the first to enshrine complete equality for women in its Constitution. It also set up the machinery to ensure that this did not remain a dead letter. It took many practical measures like providing education and jobs for women, creating crèches for children of working women, providing special health care for women and children, creating community kitchens and laundries, etc. to ensure that working women are actually freed from all the impediments which keep them backward and tied to the kitchen and home. As a result of this inspiring example, women all over the world fought and won many rights. Many participants had been totally unaware of the Soviet experience and this session made a big impact on them.
Another session dealt with how men who believe in women’s equality, who are fighting for ending all exploitation and injustice, should behave with women in their homes and organisations. This made the participants, particularly the young men and women, very thoughtful and introspective. One young participant later reported that this session created an immediate positive impact in their own lives!