In medieval and modern India, women have made distinguished contributions as leaders, fighters, scholars, writers, social workers, artistes and diplomats. There were many women reformers who worked for the betterment and upliftment of their gender. But there is a common belief that women are better only in certain jobs – teaching, nursing and craft-making. Due to stereotypes, number of women employed in technical jobs is less than that of men. Often after school, girls are encouraged to view marriage as their main aim in life. In the past, only boys were allowed to read and write. During 19th century many new ideas about education and learning emerged. Women started to read and write. Rashsundari Devi wrote her autobiography ‘Amar Jiban’. Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain learnt to read and write English and Bangla with the help of her elder brother. Pandita Ramabai was a poet, a scholar, and a champion of women’s equality. Today, there are many women breaking stereotypes. Laxmi Lakra became the first woman engine driver in Northern Railways.

Schooling and education is considered equally important for boys and girls today. In the census of 2011, literacy rate has risen to 82% for men and 65% for women. In rural areas, girls’ dropout rate (SC/ST) is higher than that of girls from General category. The status of women in India; with respect to education, legal reform, violence and health has improved thanks to the Women’s Movement.

Legal reforms have helped improve the condition of women in India. The Supreme Court formulated guidelines, in 1997, to protect women against sexual harassment at workplace and within educational institutions. An important part of the women’s movements’ work is to raise public awareness on women’s rights issues. In India, International Women’s Day is celebrated with great fervour. Several women’s organisations, NGOs, students and social activists participate actively by organising seminars, mass rallies, movies and documentary shows, and also staging gender-sensitive plays.

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