‘Mrinal sought to empower women’

For those of us who were active in what could be called the Women’s Movement in the 1970’s, the arrival of Mrinal Gore and Pramila Dandavate on the Delhi scene was something of a stunner. They brought with them an energy of mass mobilisation of women, for what could be called women’s concerns and going to their meetings in Chandni Chowk and other corners of Delhi organised by the Mahila Dakshita Samiti was an experience. It was a true political affirmation of women’s power.
Mrinal and Pramila were perhaps , some of the very few MPs that represented the women’s movement in almost tangible ways. Women were not part of their agenda. Women were their only agenda.
As has been mentioned in many of the obituaries Mrinal, like Pramila was warm, accessible clear-headed and gave many of us the entry into policy-making through their doors. One lesson that emerges from having people like Mrinal, Pramila and earlier Renuka Chakravarty in Parliament is that their lobby is clearly the feminist lobby — something that is dangerously lacking in the current membership of women in Parliament.
It is a great pity that the Janata government had such a short life as if they had lasted for five years there would have been a dramatic game shift in the visibility and power of women to participate in economic debates, to participate in reconstructing and firing India’s growth engines, led by women like Mrinal Gore and Pramila Dandavate.
It is an even greater pity that in allocating seats whether to the Rajya Sabha or for the Lok Sabha , women who lead in the women’s movement are not considered as worthy as retired governors of the Reserve Bank, retired civil servants, or Film stars.
Devaki Jain, a well-known Gandhian, is a development economist and activist

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