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Constructive Programme

What was the significance of Constructive Programme?

1. Constructive program formed an integral part of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle for freedom.

2. He held that India’s real swaraj would be attained through constructive programs and political freedom from British rule was only a part of his struggle.

3. This programme was the construction of purna swaraj by truthful and non-violent means to achieve independence of every unit.

4. Constructive work required qualities like tolerance, sacrifice, renunciation, perseverance and penance.

Why women’s participation was stressed?

1. Gandhi had realized the negative effects of colonial rule on women’s economic status.

2. The East India Company had destroyed India’s cottage industries increasing the sufferings of the womenfolk.

3. Revival of swadeshi aimed to provide work and supplement the income of semi-starved women in India.

4. Gandhi wanted to show men that women’s participation as equals was essential to make the swadeshi movement successful.

5. Women also contributed to the revival of village industries, education in health and hygiene.

How women supported and benefited from Khadi?

1. Khadi helped women earn a basic income for survival and also enabled them to come out of purdah.

2. Women were associated with various aspects of the programme such as spinning, picketing shops selling foreign cloth, etc.

3. Many widows took to spinning to earn money and mothers told their sons not to join government service but to take independent trade (such as manufacture and sale of swadeshi goods).

4. Women’s crafts fairs i.e. Mahila shilpamelas were held in many places where handicrafts made by women were sold to promote the indigenous cottage industry.

5. It enabled Gandhi to challenge the dominant upper-middle-class value that compared a family’s status with women not engaged in productive work.

6. Women of well to do families were asked to support the movement as producers and consumers (to buy khadi and also spin).

7. It was one of the programmes of the national movement through which a large number of women were brought into the political struggle.

Who participated in constructive program?

Among women, some of the famous participants are

Khadi

1. Saraladevi Chaudhurani- The first woman to address public meetings in Lahore wearing a khadi saree.

2. She toured around north India delivering speeches to popularize khadi and spinning.

3. Subhadra Mahtab- Promoted khadi work in Odisha and also formed Gandhi “Karma Mandir”.

4. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Prabhavati Devi, and Maniben Nanavati also contributed to the program in Punjab, Bihar and Bombay respectively.

5. Among Muslim women, Bi Amman propagated Khadi.

6. Women’s magazines such as Grihalakshmi and Stree Dharma took up the cause of swadeshi, charkha and khadi.

Upliftment of Harijans

1. Gandhi regarded untouchability as a social curse and a blot on Hinduism.

2. Rameshwari Nehru was appointed as the Vice President of the All India Sevak Sangh in 1934 and devised new plans for the upliftment of Harijans.

3. She also tried to get the Temple Entry Bill in favor of the Harijans passed in the Madras Legislative Assembly.

4. Ramadevi Chaudhary and her husband in Orissa established an ashram known as Sevanagar for keeping Harijan children and to give them training in various aspects of the constructive programme.

5. She taught girls from scavenger families under the auspices of the Anti-Untouchability Board.

6. Kokila Devi established a school and an ashram in Balasore for Harijan children.

7. Prabhavati Devi, Rajbansi Devi and Bhagwati Devi in Bihar fought against the purdah system.

8. Anasuya Sarabhai and Vidyagauri Nilkanth opened night schools in mill areas of Ahmedabad for Harijan children and improve the conditions of depressed and backward classes respectively.

9. Saudamini Mehta opened a clinic for Harijan children in a slum area of Calcutta.

10. She was the President of Bengal Harijan Sewak Sangh.

Hindu Muslim Unity

1. Many women came forward to promote communal unity on Gandhi’s appeal such as Sarojini Naidu, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Saraladevi Chaudhurani.

2. Mridula Sarabhai, Indumati Chimanlal Sheth and Pushpaben Mehta played an active role during communal riots to restore peace and harmony.

3. Mridula Sarabhai formed the Shanti Sewak Sangh with Mahadev Desai as President and also showed remarkable courage in rescuing abducted Hindu and Sikh women from Pakistan and Muslim women from India after Partition in 1947.

4. She was also involved in the efforts to start the organization Insaani Biradari to encourage the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect among the people of India.

Prohibition

1. Gandhi aimed to address this issue by educating the people regarding the evil effects of drinking and closing liquor shops.

2. Active women participants were Hansa Mehta, Maniben Nanavati, Mridula Sarabhai, Khurshidben Naoroji, Mithuben Petit, Ambujammal, Malati Devi, etc.

Other Contributions

1. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Annapurna Devi in Orissa, Hemaprabha Mazumdar in Bengal, Lakshmi Unnava in Andhra Pradesh organized women’s programs, opened schools and colleges for girls, etc.

2. Muthulakshmi Reddy tried to abolish the devadasi system and brought a bill in Madras Legislative Assembly in 1930.

3. Mridula Sarabhai opened ‘Jyotisangh’ in Ahmedabad which was a women’s organization in 1934.

4. Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust was set up in 1944 to work for women and children in rural areas.