Before we ponder over the issue at hand, let’s begin with simple yet sublime assertion—
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”
--Maya Angelou, African American Poet.
Aren’t these words the very abstracts of women’s competence to run alongside men in facing and countering problems and challenges the humanity as whole or a nation in particular confronts? We need not answer the obvious. Gone are the days of such notions as “frailty, thy name is women”. Any solution to a problem, to me, is a half-solution if it does not have a women quotient in both its’ formation and application. They are half of humanity(if we, for a while, ignore the unfavorable sex ratio as regards to their gender) and as such their exclusion from any problem and its solution can never be contemplated. They are as much at the receiving end of various natural, national, social and global challenges as their male counterparts are. And such situations not only warrant women’s equal participation in contriving remedies but throws equivalent onus on both the genders to strive for a common ground to attain perfectly harmonious and universal solutions. Shedding their age long involuntary seclusion the women of new era are seeking newer grounds for their newfound activities adding a newer dimension and perspective to every thought and all conceivable riddles of the life. And this only alludes to their wisdom and sagacious capacities as to provide a panacea to all the socio-national problems. We can never be in doubt about their proficiency and adeptness in various avenues.
Women, communal harmony and national integration might give one a disjoint impression at first look, yet these are so intricately woven that expatiating one without the aid of others is hardly possible. When we have expounded all we can understand the uncanny connection among them which we propose to do by and by.
The instrumentality of women in effecting communal harmony and maintaining and buttressing national integration is critical and needs thorough attention. Since we are mulling over what women can do about these two serious issues, a fresh look over their past and present status is also called for. Women’s centuries long subduction in all walk of social life, their sordid condition as to education, health and economy, various social taboos attached to their sex, innumerable incapacities being a sign of their gender, their deification in myriad of divinities yet their sub-human treatment in real social life et al are some plaintive moments in the history of entire humanity. Sadly enough, this sorrowful state of affairs is still persisting in varying degree in all the societies of the world. The long practice of subjugating a human mind to prevent its creative outlet yields ennui and habitual inability. Whatsoever incapacity and incompetence we associate with womankind is but the outcome of this compelled inactivity. Nothing can be more serious than a half of humanity afflicted with this conditioned inefficiency and problems and challenges become more glaring in the light of this gender impairment. Notwithstanding these prejudices and stigmas, a simmering awakening to fight all the odds against womankind has always been existing alongside since ages though with less vigor and potency. These forces gathered momentum with the time and touched its zenith during our struggle against foreign occupation and our resurgent intelligentsia did not deem it fit to ignore the exclusion of womankind in pursuance of our long devoted aspiration i.e. freedom. They could no longer afford to isolate this section of humanity when the fight was against civilizational forces quite superior at this front at least.This alienation of women was a serious impairment which marred the social life thus rendering it debilitating and feeble against foreigners. Various social and inhuman maladies like sati, widow’s plight, women under perpetual tutelage without any choice of freedom in decision-making, their utter subjugation on all accounts of existence viz. physical, mental, moral and spiritual were conspicuous by its all pervading presence. The increasing uneasiness of modern leaders and visionaries with these maladjusted and medieval institutions convinced their prior fight against these inadequacies rather than foreigners. For freedom from inner enemies are a precondition to the fight against outer forces. Thus ensued a long drawn battle to trample these vary forces of non-civilization which is still continuing. Some successes hither and thither yet work is still unfulfilled. We got our freedom and the actions of womankind, though not innumerable, are itched in the history of our freedom struggle like glittering rubies in the crown of independence. We achieved yet another feat in this determined endeavor when we created our pious document named constitution and accorded universal adult franchise at once still unparalleled at that point of history. We bestowed on this gender every right conceivable at par with their male counterpart in various places of our constitution.. But in practice we have not achieved the desired and still miles to go in realization of this goal. Women and their indelible mark on the sands of time while battling for our independence quite a lesson we need to remember in our foregoing discussion for it proves the inevitability of women’s participation in any serious struggle.
Now lets take women and communal harmony together by underlining their all important part in a struggle as mentioned above and its eventual success. At every point of time in a national life some or other challenges lurk to unsettle the very fabric of which a nation is made of. Communalism is one such problem. Communal harmony is a friend to win and communalism an enemy to vanquish. Any discord between two communities on a number of bases viz. region, religion, cast, creed etc can be taken as communalism in literal sense of meaning but in modern parlances the base of religion has become more akin to communalism. Communalism in its extreme form exudes violence. First and foremost, Women are more disposed to solve problems with the aid of peace and affection than by way of violent means. And as such they can be quite instrumental in solving communal problems peacefully or rather these communal problems will not crop up if they are in a position to provide a leadership to the society. Also, women plight and infirmity cut across religion, cast etc and women are suffering across all sections of society. For them fight against these various social inadequacies are far more crucial than to engage in some futile communal conflict. These forces of a better future binds them together to crusade for the attainment of ideal and real equality. Communal harmony one among many catalytic forces is needed to provide a fresh momentum to the realization of gender equality. Like many fissiparous forces communalism is bound to inflict the national and social stability thus injuring the cause of women upliftment. Both women empowerment and communalism are mutually reinforcing and one can’t be attained without the fulfillment of other. Women through various forums and institutions are addressing their common grievances without any communal awareness and they are aware of the increasing fundamentalism of communal forces hindering their efforts towards gender equality. To fight against such divisive forces as communalism we need to ensure larger women participation which is not adequate by now seeing all those serious disabilities like health, illiteracy and women’s lower economic status which seriously affects their pragmatic decision-making. When they are grappling through such issues neither they have time nor will to counter such forces. Number of educated and aware women is increasing but very slowly and inadequetly.This is high time when accord them greater no. of berth in decision making bodies where they can fight against their own incapacities and such national threats. While a number of initiatives have taken place to promote women’s participation in decision making bodies such as parliaments, decentralized form of governments, various surveys and questionnaires and complementary research reflect very few initiatives in place specifically targeted at promoting women’s participation in national social dialogue institution. Through various formal and non-formal institutions, NGOs, social dialogue institutions women are not only trying to improve their lot but they are increasingly becoming aware of futility of such issues like communalism which is nothing but manipulation of religion and culture to achieve some narrow political end thereby putting all the appropriate issues of national development in abeyance. Through Panchayati Raj Institutions and increasing women’s leadership they are addressing various viable issues to alleviate their plight and proving issues like communalism as misfit to national development.
Now we see women’s part in engineering national integration which is but continuation of previous issue as communalism is one among many forces threatening our national integration. We have already observed the indispensability of womankind in fighting all those forces which scares our socio-national life. Various forces and factors are always acting to divide the nation in myriads of disjoint compartments and which must be countered resolutely. Communalism, regionalism, linguism, are the very forces which if ever become potent result in separatism. These are the very forces which split the nation in plethora of small social atoms mutually exclusive to each other sharing no common value but animosity. In this case our national life becomes full of conflict thereby rendering the whole idea of national unity and integrity as null. This like other problems must be understood by women in order to assist in its purposeful and more vigorous solution. Again they have to fight twin battles here—one against inner incapacities and other against outer threats as national disharmony. Women are aware of these twin challenges and they not only understand the utility of first and futility of second but also are quite convinced about necessity of previous to outdo the later. Through various social dialogues forums and NGOs platform they are addressing the problems to be remedied thus integrating women of entire nation under the auspices of women empowerment without caring for caste, region, religion, language, culture for their problem cuts above all these. Through increasing strength in political decision-making and policy-formulation they are stressing the need of grater care for women development which is quite a secular and universal issue. Women leadership and inspirational models are well popularized by media which are heartily accepted by women all over nation. These are nothing but the invigorating elements of national integration. In local and decentralized governments the number are increasing and by their acts they are becoming role models for other regions.
Thus we see that women are quite instrumental in conserving national unity and undermining communal disharmony. They are the agents of positive growth and all efforts should be there to ensure their greater participation in fighting whatsoever challenge our nation faces as has been rightly observed—
“Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman's thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.”
--- Elizabeth Cady Stanton.