Women and Development


L. Rajarajeswari
Asst. Professor
Department of Business Administration
Arul Anandar College
Karumathur–625514, Madurai District


In India, women have come a long way from the rare women scholars and sages of the Vedic age to the women in different sectors of society and civilization. Today such as the armed forces, arts, information technology, politics and a number of similar sectors which have traditionally been male dominated, while simultaneously balancing the roles of wife, mother and daughter. While Indian women have fought against the patriarchal Indian society and triumphed at many levels, cases of rape, dowry death, female infanticide, sexual harassment at workplace, female illiteracy and similar problems are still rampant Indian society. The modern India has also great women leader like vijayalakshmi pandit was the first woman in the world to rise to the high office of the president of the United Nations General Assembly in the early 1950s. sarojini Naidu, first woman president of Indian National Congress and as Governor of UP, and Indira Gandhi led the country for 17 years, as Prime Minister, etc., in spite of the great majority of Indian Women.

Ancient period

The Vedic period can be called the "Golden Age" because this period women enjoy high status. Ancient women were educated in the early Vedic period. Rig Vedic verses suggest that the women married at a mature age and were probably free to select their husband scriptures such as Rig Veda and Upanishads mention several women sages. Women began to decline with the Smritis and with the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal Empire and later Christianity curtailing women's freedom and rights although reformatory movements such as Jainism allowed women to be admitted to the religious order by and large, the women in India faced confinement and restrictions. The practice of child marriages is believed to have started from around sixth century.

Medieval period 

When sati, child marriages and  ban on widow remarriages became part of social life in India. Medieval India was not seen many foreign conquests, which resulted in the decline in women's status. When Muslims invaded India they brought with them their own culture. For them women was the sole property of her father, brother or husband and she does not have any will be her own. This type of thinking also crept into the minds of Indian people and they also began to treat their own women like this. One more reason for the decline in women's status and freedom was that original Indians wanted to shield their women folk from the barbarous Muslim invaders. As polygamy was a norm for these invaders they picked up any women they wanted and kept her in their "harems". In order to protect them Indian women started using "purdah". Sue to this reason their freedom also became affected. They were not allowed to move freely and this lead to the further deterioration of their positions. Thus a vicious circle started in which women was at the receiving end. Rise to some new evils such as child marriage, sati, jauhar and restriction on girl education.

Though these evils were present in medieval Indian society, they were mainly confined to Hindu society. As compared to Hindu society other to Hindu society other societies such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Christians were a bit lenient. Women in those societies enjoyed far more freedom. They have easy access to education and were more liberal in their approach. According to these religions gender was not the issue in attaining salvation. Any person or a woman is entitled to get the grace of god. During the time of king Ashoka women took part in religious preaching. According to Hiuen Tsang, the famous traveler of that time, Rajyashri, the sister of Harashavardhana was a distinguished scholar of her time. Another such example is the daughter of king Ashoka, Sanghmitra. She along with her brother Mahendra went to Sri lanka to preach Buddism.

The status of women in southern India was better than the North India. Vijayanagar kingdom women were present in each and every field. Women could wrestle, blow trumpet and handle sword with equal field.

Women's struggle and reforms

Though women of India are not at par with her counterpart in western world but she is struggling hard to make her mark in men's world. Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi was the one such woman. She was the one who put even British rulers to shame with her extra ordinary feats in battle. She fought for her kingdom, which Dalhousie, British Governor General, had unlawfully annexed. She was in true sense the leader of uprising of 1857. There are certain men who took the cause of women in India. There have been social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra vidhyasagar, swami vevekanand, swami dayananda saraswathi who have helped women gain their previous status in society.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy abolishing sati lawfully. It was due to his efforts that lord William Bentinck banned the custom of sati in 1829.m Raja ram mohan roy also did great work in the field of women education. He was against child marriage and favored widow remarriage. 'Brahmo samaj' for the reform of Indian society. Ishwar Chandra vidyasagar was strongly supported women education in Bengal. He opened many schools for girls. Mahatma jyotirao phule, was opened first school in India, with opening first home for widows and home for newborn girl children so that they can be saved from female infanticide. The social reformers of 19th century laid down the stage for the emancipation of women but Gandhi under whose influence these reforms reached masses. Women come forward to share to responsibilities of nation.

Due to his efforts that so many women like Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Aruna Asaf Ali, sucheta Kripalini and Raj kumari Amrity kaur cane forward. He spread the message of equality of the gender to the masses and criticized the desire of Indian people to have male child. Gandhiji was strictly against the child marriage and favored widow remarriage. Due to his efforts that when India got independent 'right to vote' came naturally to Indian women whereas in other developed nations like England and American women got this right very late and that too after lot of protest.

Modern period and after Independent

Today Indian women have excelled in each and every field from social work to visiting space station. There is no arena, which remained unconquered by Indian women. Whether women in politics, sports, entertainment, literature, technology everywhere.   After Independent the issue of providing equal status to women had been sharply focused in the development process. Right from the first five year plan four plans focused on organizing various welfare activities and giving priority to women's education. The five plans promotes direct to women. The effect of women in all Ministries and Departments.     

The constitution of India grants equal rights to women both at the centre and at the state levels. The 73rd and 74th amendment of the constitution seeks to enhance women's participation in the democrative process at the grass-roots. It provides for thirty percent reservation of seats for women in panchayats. The participation of women in the panchayat raj is considered crucial for the development of women. The most influencing fact in the field of politics was the Prime Ministership of smt. Indira Gandhi in 1966. Vijayalakshmi pandit was sent as Indian Ambassador to Russia and for many years she carried her responsibility successfully. Political participation is the hall mark of any given democratic set-up. 73 rd and 74th constitutional Amendments Act of 1992 provide for effective participation of women in panchayat raj institutions and municipalities respectively by making special reservations for them. women is viewed as democratic and democratizing right and the lack of more extensive participation by women is an indication of our democratic system.


The Government of India implemented a number of laws have been change the conditions of women. During Vedic period women enjoyed. So the political role of women of ancient and medieval periods suggest that the part played by women in political decision making was peripheral, restricted to a few exceptional women with extra ordinary capabilities form the ruling elite. The role played by women during the freedom struggle, and in securing adult franchise without discrimination do not do justice to the scarifies and heroism of women in every part of the country. Mahatma Gandhi Raja ram Mohan Roy, Eswara Chandra vidhyasagar, Swami Dhayananda Saraswati and other leaders were the architects of women's participation in the field.  Today, women are seen taking part in politics and holding high offices. There has been women Prime Ministers, Women Ambassadors, and delegates to International Bodies, Women Governors, women Chief Ministers and Legislators who have shaped the history of our country.


1. Mishra saraswathi – status of Indian women (2002)

2. Dasgupta kalpana – women on the Indian scene (1975)

3. Jalali raminga – status of women (2004)

4. Immanual – women and development (1998)

5. Jahan farhat – women in India (2004)

6. Rao vijayeswari –women and society (2002)

7. w.w.w.legal service in India .com.

L. Rajarajeswari
Asst. Professor
Department of Business Administration
Arul Anandar College
Karumathur–625514, Madurai District

Source: E-mail April 24, 2012


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