Role of Women in the Constituent Assembly
Role of Women in the Constituent Assembly
November 25, 2021
Women who were part of the making of the Constitution of India
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The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to frame the Constitution of India. It was elected by the 'Provincial Assembly'. Following India's independence from British Government in 1947, its members served as the nation's first Parliament. Of the 389 members of the Indian Constituent Assembly, 15 were women. Get to know more about them here!
Ammukutty, as she was fondly called was fearless in thought and action, evident in her lifetime as social worker and politician. Through her work at WIA, she addressed the economic issues and problems of women workers. It was one of the first associations to demand adult franchise and constitutional rights for women. Lakshmi Sahgal, Ammu’s second-born, would lead the Rani Jhansi regiment in the Indian National Army under Subhash Chandra Bose.
Mascarene was one of the leaders of the movements for independence and integration of the Princely States within the Indian nation. When the political party Travancore State Congress was formed, she became one of the first women to join. She also served on the Constituent Assembly's select committee that looked into the Hindu Code Bill.
The only Dalit woman to be elected to the Constituent Assembly, she served as a member of the assembly, and as a part of the provisional parliament from 1946-52. At 34, she was also one of the youngest members of the assembly. Velayudhan’s life and politics was influenced and defined by the rigid caste system in Kerala.
Begum Aizaz Rasul
Begum was the only Muslim woman member in the Constituent Assembly, Aizaz Rasul formally gave up the purdah in 1937 when she won her first election from the non-reserved seat and became a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council. She also significantly contributed to popularising Women’s Hockey.
A prominent social reformer who participated in Gandhi-led 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. Durgabai was the first to emphasise the need to set up separate Family Courts after studying the same during her foreign visits to China, Japan.
Hansa Jivraj Mehta
Hansa Jivraj Mehta served on the Constituent Assembly and was a member of the fundamental rights sub-committee, the advisory committee and the provincial constitutional committee. On 15 August 1947, a few minutes after midnight, Mehta, on behalf of the “women of India", presented the national flag to the assembly—the first flag to fly over independent India.
Kamla Chaudhry was a Hindi story writer. She actively participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly & after the constitution was adopted, she served as a member of the Provincial Government of India till 1952.
A freedom fighter & social worker who worked for the education of women in India, Roy was the only elected woman member from Bengal to the Assembly. She resigned from her post to stage a protest against the partition of India. She was a close associate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
After Independence, Malati Choudhury, as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, and as the President of the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee, tried her best to emphasize the role of education, especially adult education in rural reconstruction. She also joined the Bhoodan Movement of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, and was deeply influenced by both, Tagore and Gandhi.
Purnima Banerjee was one among a radical network of women from UP who stood at the forefront of the freedom movement in the late 1930-40s. She was the Secretary of the Indian National Congress committee in Allahabad. Banerjee was the younger sister of famous freedom fighter, educator and activist Aruna Asaf Ali.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
Amrit Kaur was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces. Her most significant contribution was in ensuring extensive political participation of women. She became the first woman to hold a cabinet position in India as health minister. The All India Women’s Conference Center, the Lady Irwin College in Delhi and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are few of the reputed organisations that owe their existence to her.
As part of the Constituent Assembly from West Bengal, she made several interventions in the Assembly including on women’s rights issues, minorities rights and bicameral legislature provision. She also joined the All-India Women’s Conference & campaigned hard for women’s rights and inheritance rights in parental property.
Popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of India’, Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist and poet. Naidu's poetry includes both children's poems and others written on more serious themes including patriotism, romance, and tragedy. She became the President of the Indian National Congress and later she was appointed as the Governor of the United Provinces.
Sucheta Kripalani is remembered for her role in the Quit India Movement of 1942. She established the women’s wing of the Congress party in 1940. She sang Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly. She was also India’s first woman Chief Minister.
As an activist, minister, ambassador and diplomat she was among the few revolutionising the role of women in nation-building. The first woman cabinet minister in the British era, Pandit was one of the first leaders to call for an Indian Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution.