Mahatma Gandhi’s Inspiration to Women and Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi

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The views of Mahatma Gandhi had influenced millions of women in the freedom struggle & if we say about present scenario the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and actions undertaken by him may not go entirely because the times have irreversibly changed but the honesty of him, the love & respect he had for female section, can never be doubted. He is truly the best guide and friend of the women of the world. At Vedic time women perceived high status & participated actively in political discussions. They had allowed to perform religious ceremony with their husbands and even preached the same but with course of time female lost their status & they were confined just in four walls. In the early 19th century few elite women leader formed women organizations, but there was lack of spirit of nationalism.

Later on due to efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, the spirit of nationalism arose among them all irrespective of class or status. Under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi the women along with their general awakening they entered into national mainstream & their contribution in political as well as public gave them a new prestige & status. Women came out on national front for cause of freedom. It is seen that the sudden & massive entry of women into Salt Satyagraha in 1930, opened up for common women further opportunities, which they were getting in the Vedic time.

Mahatma Gandhi is the key source of inspiration & guidance in making of Independent Indian society. The Indian National Congress had become a mass based organization under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi included several women among his lieutenants who followed Mahatma Gandhi as the supreme commander. There was a widespread commitment to equality of women. Scholars working on female status, opine those many changes which have occurred in traditional outset & status of female, through new opportunities for socio-economic pattern & political rights, during 1930s & 1940s. But no one can ignore the reality as women are the victims of poverty, ignorance and oppressed social institutions, they hardly know their destiny.

True, women are the most backward and oppressed sub-section of the section of every section of the society. It is also true that in Indian history, individual women had risen to level of eminence – literacy, religious, social and political- which would have been the envy of their sex anywhere in the world. Mahatma Gandhi’s mass-mobilization for India’s freedom had also involved women in large numbers from every section of the society, but this touched only a very small minority of women and the mass involvement of women in the freedom struggle was an isolated, though a very significant and powerful, expression of women’s power.

So far as the overwhelming majority of women were concerned, however, they presented the most backward face of Indian citizenry. Hardly 7% of them were literate, all were aware that if the new India of their dreams was to become reality, it would need social engineering on a large scale, in respect of backward and oppressed section of the country and above all, its women. On the answer of a question as to what constitution he would bring if he could help it, to a newspaper correspondent at London in second round table conference, Mahatma Gandhi responded: “I shall strive for a constitution which will release India from all thralldom and patronage – I shall work for India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people – women shall enjoy the same rights as men….

It is not surprising, therefore, that when Indian Constitution was written; it vibrated with the lofty sentiments and gave a clarion call for a liberal and egalitarian order. The Constitution was given unto themselves by the people of India- all its people men and women alike, it aimed at securing values as justice, equality, fraternity and dignity and these precious gifts were to be made available to all its citizens, all men and women. To attain the above objectives the Constitution enacted a framework of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.

There are 16 Articles of the Constitution that deal with the Directive Principles. They cover a wide range of State activity embracing economic, social, legal, educational and international problems. Some of them concern women indirectly or by necessary implication, as few are women-specific. Whereas in Part-III of the Constitution, enshrined freedom, protection of life and personal liberty, as Articles-14, 15, 16 ‘16(1), 16(2), 32 are women-specific.


Methodology depends mainly on the aim of the nature of the problem coupled with the availbility of the type of the data i.e. secondary, in order to achieve the main objective. The data is collected from different sources like magazines, journals & books and the study is carried out with help of recently developed research technique & method.


The objectives of the study are as:

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s inspiration to women
  • The enhanced power of women due influence of Gandhian philosophy
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy is of effect in this changing scenario

The main thrust of the study is the “Inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy on Women”. It has been considered imperative to provide the study on the views of Mahatma Gandhi on women & influence of female section as well as their emancipation even in today’s world.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Inspiration to Women

It is imperative to look at female role & status prevalent in the 20th Century to understand in depth that Mahatma Gandhi played an important role to improve the position of female section of the Indian society. He took the conscientiousness of shouldering a social campaign that led to a major re-orientation of the common notion of female section in Indian society. In 19th and 20th our country was in such a wretched situation that there were evils like Child Marriage, Dowry System and boundness of female in enclosures of four walls as very few female could avail education. Mahatma Gandhi’s opinion was that until & unless women, on the basis of education & knowledge do not find their proper place in social & economic fields, they could not achieve self- respect for themselves. Nor they could become self- dependent in any of the walks of life.

In his lifetime Gandhi inspired people to take concrete and practical initiatives regarding women education which will bring them out of old conservative customs & rules, which were responsible for their mental & social slavery. Mahatma Gandhi said that “To call women the weaker sex is a libel; it is men’s injustice to women.” For Mahatma Gandhi, women were not mere toys in the hands of men, neither their competitors. Men and women are essentially endowed with the same spirit and therefore have similar problems. She is as free as the husband to choose her own path. She has the right to participate in the very minutest details in the activities of man. Gandhi is the champion of the rights of women as equal partner of men. A letter written to Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur from Wardha on 20-10-1936, Gandhi wrote: ‘If you women would only realize your dignity and privilege and make full use of it for mankind, you will make it much better than it is.

But man has delighted in enslaving you and you have proved willing slaves ill and the slave holders have become one in the crime of degrading humanity. My special function from childhood, you might say, has been to make women realize her dignity.’ Along with this Mahatma Gandhi believed that economic freedom would play a vital role in the empowerment of women. He consistently inspired & motivated women for spinning yarn &weaving cloth. Once, addressing women at Nadiad, in 1919, Mahatma Gandhi suggested that rather than spending so much time in temples, women should spin for few hours everyday. Mahatma Gandhi felt consisted in serving the motherland. He believed that the success of the swadeshi movement was possible only if women spun yarn and weave cloth in large numbers. Spinning yarn would not only enable the women to be economically independent, but would also add to resources of middle class, sometimes even the sole source of subsistence for lower class families.

Due inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi women organized public meetings, sold khadi & wore khadi cloth as uniform, started picketing shops of liquor & foreign goods, they broke Salt Law by preparing contraband salt, they picketed liquor & burned foreign cloth, braved lathis & bullets went to jail. Other women who did not go to the jail devoted themselves developing alternative life style & socio economic structures based on Gandhian philosophy of sustainable development. They came forward to face all sorts of atrocities, including inhuman treatment by police officers and imprisonment. For the cause of freedom they came forward to give all that they had like their wealth & strength, their jewellery & belongings, their skills & labour etc., even today women are being inspire with the philosophy of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Traditional Set Up in Indian Society and Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s socio-political philosophy, as much as he addresses to the question of gender equality is progressive but constructed on patriarchal values. According to Mahatma Gandhi, a woman is companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him. Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed that happiness of mankind will be realized only when both coordinate & advance equally, for each is the companion of the other. In fact, one cannot live without the other’s active help, as souls both are equal.

Mahatma Gandhi emphasized upon the economic independence of everyone – both men, as well as women. Since nature has created sexes as complements of each other, their functions are also defined as are their forms. Mahatma Gandhi strongly criticized socio-cultural customs & rituals that had held women in a subordinate position for centuries. Though Mahatma Gandhi never challenged the traditional set up, he inspired women to carve out their own destinies within. Taking a critical & rational approach, Mahatma Gandhi said that ‘it is good to swim in the waters of tradition but to sink in them is suicide.’

Mahatma Ghandhi was fully aware of exploitation of women, in & outside their homes, but he thought that a person cannot be exploited without his or her will or participation. Mahatma Gandhi admitted that he learnt technique of non-violent passive resistance from women, especially from his wife & mother. He observed & studied women in his own home and came to perceive women as equal partners at home & society, not merely as wives & mothers. However, for Mahatma Gandhi equality of the sexes does not mean equality of occupations, as well women’s occupations are more conducive to peace than war.

Once addressing women, he said that refuse to be the slaves of your own whims and fancies and the slaves of men. Refuse to decorate yourselves, and do not go in for scents and lavender waters, if you (women) want to give out proper scent, it must come out of your heart, then you will captivate not man but humanity. Women learnt from Mahatma Gandhi that one can be strong even if seemingly weak to protest against injustice. They realized that they do not have to accept the norms of male dominated politics. They evolved their own perspectives & formulated their own methods. Mahatma Gandhi could see woman as connected with service and not with power.

Mahatma Gandhi and Women

In Non Co-operation Movement of 1921, Mahatma Gandhi consciously involved women in it and it was an attempt to link their struggle with struggle for national independence and the programme for women was devised in a way that they could remain at home and still contribute to the movement. As a part of Non Co-operation, Congressmen were asked to boycott government educational institutions, law courts and legislatures and to defy the government and its unjust laws in a peaceful manner, but the constructive programme of Swadeshi pivoted around boycott of British goods, and the spinning and weaving of Khadi. The restoration of spinning to its central place in India’s peaceful campaign for freedom from the colonial oppression gives her women a special status. He sees women as a potential resource for the success of his moments both political & social and advocates their increased participation.

Mahatma Gandhi remarked that the wages payable to women for an hour’s spinning should be the same as are paid to men and we know that equal wages for equal work is an important aspect of feminist thought. He remarked that times have changed when man was regarded as woman’s master. That we do not admit this is a different matter. God has made man & woman one complete whole. One must not lord over other. According to Mahatma Gandhi Woman is personification of strength, endurance & self-sacrifice but she does not realize what tremendous strength she possesses.

Once a woman realizes this, she can exhibit to the world the infinite strength that is latent in her. The beauty of a woman does not consist in the beauty of her clothes & jewellery, but in purity of her heart. The depth of Mathama Gandhi Philosophy could be realized, as who can forget Mother Teresa. Mahatma Gandhi laid emphasis on dignity of household work i.e. both men & women need to be educated equally in this because home belongs to both. Mahatma Gandhi strongly felt that men must be participated in house work, which reduces drudgery of women’s household work. Therefore Mahatma Gandhi even a century before could perceive the hardships that woman would face performing dual responsibility i.e. of a home maker and of a professional woman contributing towards economic subsistence of the family.

Until and unless men come forward and show their participation, willingly and happily, in performing domestic tasks as well as rearing and bringing up of children, Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal of woman as a home maker may act as a protective shield for her. Mahatma Gandhi had suggested that woman has a right to decide for herself. She may remain single and fulfill her wishes of being a progressive working woman. There is something in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas that is essentially radical. He did not see women as helpless objects of reform neither did he think of bringing change only in some spheres of life such as marriage or education. His vision of change was comprehensive. He connected moral with political, social & economic, presenting an eclectic view of life.


Women have always been obviously working as a vital factor of societal unity and development in all societies. In 20th century in India it was left to Mahatma Gandhi to give direction, strength and inspiration to a vast all-embracing national movement which was to draw into its vortex women in large numbers. By identifying himself with the masses, with the disinherited and the forgotten millions, he stirred depths of our national conscience as no leader has done before or ever since. With remarkable foresight and with the experience he gained in South Africa he assessed the strength inherent in women. Mahatma Gandhi had tremendous faith in women’s inherent capacity for non-violence. His experience of women participation in politics from his days in South Africa till the end of his life bears evidence to the fact that they never failed his expectations.

However under the leadership of great patriot Sarojini Naidu, Congress President in 1925 & leader of All India Women Conference, a section of elite women not only built support for their cause of women’s equality but also formed an alliance with the nationalist movement for ouster of British by linking freedom for women with freedom for India. In the 1920s and 1930s women participated actively in the Civil Disobedience movement. Thousands of women were jailed during their participation in Salt march when Mahatma Gandhi urged people to break the salt law by making salt themselves. Thus women participation in the national movement helped in breaking several of the old barriers of tradition and custom. Mahatma Gandhi’s call to women to involve themselves in freedom struggle had far-reaching results in changing their outlook. Many women in their individual lives shed their age-old prejudices & liberated themselves.

The Village Indian Women in the Changing Scenario

India as a village India, approximately its 80% people lives in rural and dependent on agriculture. In the field of agriculture women has to play a substantial contribution. They do the sowing, harvesting, processing & many other courses directly connected with agriculture. Their involvement in informal sector is also great. The work done by them is not remunerative. As such, women in society have substantial contribution in the economic field or sphere without any remuneration in their personal account. In addition women have primary responsibility of children and household chores depending on the socio-culture climate.

The women have variation in their roles assigned to them by society. Social, cultural and attitudinal factors affect status of women in the society at every stage. In such cases only attitudinal change can help in bringing the desired results. Along with this in the changing scenario government policies & plans are contributing in great extent to strengthen women position in our society. During United Nations Decade for Women 1976-1985 as well as in Millennium developmental goals 2000, many policies and programmes have been adopted by government to enhance role of women in development and after such programmes, progress has been achieved in the field of education, self-sufficient and many other areas.

The Constitutional provisions, laws and the ruling confer de jure rights on women but to become de facto entitlements, they have to be given the support of certain schemes or programmes. Equal rights to work or to be appointed to any office has meaning only if the concerned women is able to have the necessary qualifications, education or experience. Similarly, equal pay for equal work also vests rights in a women worker but they can be realized if she is capable of equal performance or productivity. It necessary therefore that this super structure of rights is supported by the infrastructure of opportunities schemes and programmes which enables women to realize their potential. Example is here of dowry, that despite of the legal bar it is continuing flourishing, until the government and civil society are able to bring about desired attitudinal changes. Therefore much of the responsibility for translating constitutional promises of gender impartiality into everyday reality transfers on the executive.

The relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy

Scholars working on the status of Indian women opine that many changes have occurred in the traditional conception of role and status of women through new opportunities for education and employment, emergence of new socio-economic pattern and privileges or equal legal & political rights. Women are competing with men on an equal footing and have entered into occupations which were considered as the domain of men. After Independence many laws are made up and policies are initiated to strengthen women and bring them on front foot. The Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution incorporate the policy goals of welfare state. Some Articles deal with women indirectly while a few others concern women directly and have a special bearing on their status.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1930, Hindu Marriage Act 1955, The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956, Hindu succession Act 1956, , Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, Five Years Plans, Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, The Child Marriage Restraint Amendment Act 1976, The Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1987, The New Inheritance Law 2005 and now a inclusion of small clause to it, and on Feb 2, 2018 Supreme Court has made it a general rule and some other regulations or amendments relating to women were also passed to give them the place of dignity, equality, opportunity and protection.

Education is necessary for all the development and emancipation, as far as education is concerned; the existing socio-economic context as well as cultural norms and traditions may effects the degree to which women can access the services. Hence different strategy is needed to bridge the gender gap in the educational attainments. On the economic front agriculture and industrial sectors may appear quite gender-neutral. Women needs and problems are quietly different. Large numbers of women are engaged in agriculture and allied activities, there is need to focus extension and training efforts on women. Although, in the Five Years Plans and in a number of beneficiary oriented programmes under various schemes, there is an attempt to ensure that women get a fair share of benefits under all development programmes. Education perceives as a key to empowerment and emphasis by government is laid on creating conditions to enable women to participate in the educational process in more meaningful way.


Leadership of Mahatma Gandhi acted as major forces in the achievement of equal status for women. Undoubtedly Mahatma Gandhi wanted to build a society based on cardinal virtues of justice, peace and equality. He stood as a great political and social reformer and felt that India has to be strengthened from its very roots. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision was to bring equality in the society Mahatma Gandhi’s analysis of social evils, his consistent efforts for the liberation of women and his immense faith in women’s moral strength made an impact on women’s struggle for rights & equality as an integral part of the struggle for national independence.

Women participated in large numbers in ‘mass’ movements led by him and this made a big breakthrough in Indian women’s lives. In 1885 the Indian National Congress was founded and in its 1889 Bombay session, ten women participated. Mahatma Gandhi call to women and large scale participation of women in the freedom movement brought about changes in perception of other nationalist leaders as well, but there is another aspect also as Jawaharlal Nehru who was influenced by the liberal views on women’s question in the west was in agreement with Mahatma Gandhi that without economic freedom other aspects of women’s equality would not be realized.

In general now in this 21st century, in spite of legal & constitutional guarantees, women are still lagged behind almost all sectors. The female work participation rate has shown consistent rise but more then 95% of women workers are in the unorganized sector, where there is no law safeguards, leaves and another benefits. Women in service sector like IAS, IPS, IFS has shown an upward trend but they are in very few in numbers and cannot be considered adequate. Reservation 1/3 seats in PRIs has given a boost to women representatives at grass-root levels and in some states it is 50% but in state legislative assemblies and at centre level the percentage is very low then desired.

Similarly, the efforts of Supreme Court, government and non-government organizations and activists to contain violence against women have not born much fruit. As the incidence of atrocities, domestic violence and violence against women has been increasing. In whole there is advancement in on several fronts, obstruction or regression on some. Many old systems are weakening, many are resisting change. Many new problems are arising because of new technologies. A problem as multifaceted as women’s self actualization is too important to be left to the government. All section of civil society; the NGOs, the Academia, the corporate world, must join hands with the government at all levels, from the PRIs to the federal polity, women and their self help groups to usher in the new dawn of freedom, dignity and opportunity for all.

Development strategy to empower women is felt essential at broad base as Mahatma Gandhi desired. Development strategy of empowerment should mainly be concerned with employment and asset generation coupled with skill oriented education and vocational training. A preconceived development strategy studded with emphasis on employment, education, health, nutrition, sanitation etc. Critical elements that contribute to the quality of human life, more so in rural sector, may prove to be effective in long run to raise the status of women but in men dominated societies with social & political institutions biased in favor of gender discrimination may not prove to be effective enough to take them out of downward gravitational pull.

To empower women we want the Public Distribution System to be strengthened. No doubt, today the empowerment of women has become one of the most important concerns but still it is a daydream. Mahatma Gandhi had shown the way for empowerment of women & development of the status of women and we have to walk on the guided path to achieve or fulfill the dream of Mahatma Gandhi in true sense. Education for women and realization of the self-sufficient is the need of the time that would ensure their moral development and make them capable of occupying the same platform.


It can be said without any doubt that Mahatma Gandhi experimented in all a century ago and shown the way for empowerment of women and the improvement of the status of women in the country. No doubt, women are coming in front in many places, but still they have to walk a long distance to be fully empowered without any discrimination. In reality still we can see an opposite picture of empowerment of women. It is a great regret for us that even today employment of women is still restricted in some areas. They are not allowed to enter into certain jobs, beyond doctors, nurses, teachers and clerical jobs.

In the family the women become victim of domestic violence and in the society they are also exploited by the social evils like dowry system, prostitution etc. Women are already suffering malnutrition, which inevitably will be their children’s fate as well. No doubt, Government policies and programmes have made a difference to the socio- economic status of women in our country. As women literacy rate, life expectancy has risen steadily, on the other side sex ratio has shown declining trend. The ratio which stood at 946 at 1951 declined to 927 in 1991, though there has been a marginal rise to 933 in the 2001 and again declined to 914 in 2011.

The literacy rate of women in 1951was 8.90% and 53.70% in 2001and it is 65.46% in 20011. The literacy rate of women has risen 8.9% in 1951 to 65.46% in 2011. The growth rate of female is more then the male by 2011 census, but it is disappointing fact that over 34.54% women are still illiterate. Two aspects are there, as enrolment rates for girls at the primary, secondary, higher educational and professional institutes have shown considerable improvement. At the same time, the dropout rates for girls at school remain high.

If the women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits but even today in this 21st century Mahatma Gandhi’s vision seems unfulfilled in reality. Women are legged behind in every aspect including health, education, status, politics, public sector etc. Even the public sector has failed to narrow its gender pay gap in this recent year. Some women have shown achievements in different field nut they are very few in number. There is a lot of need to empower women and make them self reliant to meet the dream of Mahatma Gandhi.

Cite this paper

Mahatma Gandhi’s Inspiration to Women and Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi. (2021, Jan 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/mahatma-gandhis-inspiration-to-women-and-relevance-of-mahatma-gandhi/

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