Inspirational Woman – Durgabai Deshmukh

The Seventh Inspirational Woman, that we have is Durgabai Deshmukh, who was also a member of the Constitution Committee, that drafted the Constitution of India and of Planning Commission of India.

Durgabai Deshmukh, Lady Deshmukh  was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker and politician.

She was an activist for women’s emancipation and was the founder of the Andhra Mahila Sabha (Andhra Women’s Conference) in 1937. She was also the founder chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board. In 1953, she married C.D. Deshmukh, the first Indian governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Minister in India’s Central Cabinet during 1950-1956.

At age 12, she left school in protest to the imposition of English-medium education. She later started the Balika Hindi Paathshala in Rajamundry to promote Hindi education for girls.

One of the famous incidents, which shows her straight foward nature was when the Indian National Congress had its conference in her hometown of Kakinada in 1923. She was a volunteer and placed in charge of the Khadi exhibition that was running side by side. Her responsibility was to ensure that visitors without tickets didn’t enter. She fulfilled the responsibility given to her honestly and even forbade Jawaharlal Nehru from entering. She allowed Nehru in only after the organisers bought a ticket for him. Nehru praised the girl for the courage with which she did her duty.

She was a prominent social reformer who participated inthe Salt Satyagraha activities during the Civil Disobedience Movement. She was instrumental in organising women satyagrahis in the movement.This led to British Raj authorities imprisoning her three times between 1930 and 1933.

After her release from prison, Durgabai continued her studies. She finished her B.A and her M.A in political science in the 1930s from Andhra University. She went on to obtain her law degree from Madras University in 1942, and started practicing as an advocate in Madras High Court.

Durgabai was the president of the Blind Relief Association. In that capacity, she set up a school-hostel and a light engineering workshop for the blind.

Durgabai was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. She was the only women in the panel of Chairman in the Constituent Assembly.She was instrumental in the enactment of many social welfare laws.

Durgabai Deshmukh realized that the major limiting factors in the progress of the nation were lack of education, superstitions and inferior treatment given to women. She exhibited her leadership skills by establishing a unique organization by the name of Andhra Mahila Sabha in 1937 that played a remarkable role in empowering women through education, health facilities and vocational training. Till date, this organization is considered a pioneering institute in women’s welfare and education in South India.

She was nominated to be a member of the Planning Commission. In that role, she mustered support for a national policy on social welfare. The policy resulted in the establishment of a Central Social Welfare Board in 1953. As the Board’s first chairperson, she mobilized a large number of voluntary organizations to carry out its programs, which were aimed at education, training, and rehabilitation of needy women, children, and the handicapped.

She was the first to emphasise the need to set up separate Family Courts after studying the same during her visit to China in 1953. She discussed the idea with Justice M.C. Chagla and Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar of the Bombay High Court (at that time) and also with Jawaharlal Nehru.With similar demands for speedy justice for women in familial matters from women’s movement and organisations, the Family Courts Act was enacted in 1984.

She was the first chairperson of the National Council on Women’s Education, established by the Government of India in 1958.[In 1959, the committee presented its recommendations, as follows:

  1. “The Centre and State Governments should give priority to the education of girls.
  2. In the central ministry of education, a department of women’s education should be created.
  3. For proper education of girls, a Director of Women’s Education should be appointed in each state.
  4. Co-education should be properly organised at higher level of education.
  5. The University Grants Commission should specify a definite amount separately for the education of girls.
  6. In the first phase of development, provision of free education should be made for girls up to Class VIII
  7. Facilities in the choice of optional subjects should be made available for girls.
  8. Girls should get training facilities on a liberal basis.
  9. Education of Girls should be given due encouragement in rural areas.
  10. A large number of seats in various services should be reserved for them.
  11. Programmes for the development of adult women’s education should be properly initiated and encouraged.”

To commemorate her legacy, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam has named its Department of Women Studies as Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh Centre for Women’s Studies.

In 1963, she was sent to Washington D.C. as a member of the Indian delegation to the World Food Congress.


Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

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