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Indian women on the rise

Women’s Work Opportunities

Although most women in India work and contribute to the economy in one form or another, much of their work is not acknowledged or documented in official statistics. Women plow fields and harvest crops; women weave and make handicrafts while working in household industries; women sell food and gather wood while working in the informal sector. Additionally, women are responsible for the daily household chores (e.g. cooking, fetching water, and looking after children). Although the cultural restrictions women face are changing, women are still not as free as men to participate in the formal economy.

But progress has been made, and since some years more and more women are on the rise, taking their part in public, professional and political life, resulting in the fact, that female professors, doctors, and business women are not a rarity anymore.

Women in Politics

In spite of the daily challenges women used to face and continue to face in everyday life, women have played a crucial role in shaping the political landscape of the country since India's independence in 1947.

Indira Gandhi The first and probably the most influential woman in Indian politics was Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi, but daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of India’s independency movement and first prime minister of the Republic of India).

Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of independent India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977, and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984 following some controversially discussed decisions and military actions she had induced.  India's only female prime minister to date, and with 15 years of service in total she remains the world's longest serving female Prime Minister as of 2011.

Sonia GandhiThe second most influential female figure in Indian politics is Sonia Gandhi,  Italian born wife of Rajiv Gandhi, who was the son of Indira Gandhi, taking over his mother’s post after her assassination in 1984. After he had been assassinated himself in 1991, Sonia Gandhi was repeatedly asked to join politics herself and to take over the Congress. She finally agreed to this in 1997, and was consecutively elected leader of the Congress in 1998; she has been the President of the Indian National Congress Party since then, becoming the longest serving President in September 2010.

She continues to be Chief Party Leader of the Indian National Congress Party and was repeatedly voted one of the most powerful women of India.

Pratibha PatilPratibha Patil is the current and first female President of the Republic of India. Pratibha Patil started her professional career after studying law, as a practising lawyer and worked on various social activities, especially, for the upliftment of poor women.

She successfully contested her first election for political office at the age of 27, and was  elected four times consecutively as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly between 1962 and 1985. Thereafter, she served as a Member of Parliament until 1996. Moreover she was the 24th Governor of Rajasthan between 2004–2007, and the first woman to hold that office. On 14 June 2007, she was nominated as candidate for the Presidential Election and finally elected in July that year.

Chhavi RajawatAnother impressive figure in contemporary Indian politics is Chhavi Rajawat. She is  not only one of the few (and the youngest) female "sarpanchs" (Head of village), but probably also the only one who holds a degree in business management. She left her corporate career behind in 2010 to help shape the future of her childhood village, Soda, set in rural Rajasthan, and has initiated considerable changes within this short period.

Saarthak Gallery