5 July 2013

Women’s Movements in the Post Independent Era of Andhra Pradesh


Social movements can be classified into women’s movements, Dalit movements, Tribal movements, Agrarian and Farmers’ movements, Regional identity movements, and Human Rights movements etc. on the basis of the socio-economic characteristics of the participants and the issues involved. All these movements are aimed at acquiring due spaces for different sections of populations and regions. Social movements may sometimes determine public policy

The state of Andhra Pradesh has a distinct place in the history of social movements in India. The state has witnessed many social movements involving marginalized and disadvantaged groups and regions, these movements have expanded social and political spaces of the women. Andhra Pradesh is the only state with a vibrant women’s self help group movement. The presence of a strong women’s movement probably provided a base for this.

Women’s Movements in Post independent Andhra Pradesh.

The roots of the women’s movements In Andhra Pradesh dates back to the nineteenth century.

In Andhra Pradesh women in early 50s joined struggles for the rural poor such as the Telangana movement. Women played an important role in the Telangana struggle. They actively participated in the land movement, in agricultural labor wage struggles, in seizure of landlords' grain etc. They acted as couriers, as political agitators, and in new centre’s as organizers of people’s movements and mass organizations.
They had to face molestation and rape, apart from beatings on a large scale. The story of their heroic and stubborn resistance in defense of their personal dignity, against molestation, torture and rape, is an inspiring one.

 The transition of the economy in rural areas from semi-feudal to capitalist relations from the 1960s has created a need for the poor in general and rural women belonging to landless agricultural labor and poor peasant households in particular to participate in women movements.

 During the 1970s the left parties organized agricultural labor, peasants and women on class lines. Higher wages for agricultural labor, access to land, and protection against famines were the issues focused upon. The extreme left parties were more sensitive than the Left parties to issues of caste and gender oppression although they too worked within the party rather than in separate women’s organizations in the early 1970s. 
The women of Andhra Pradesh joined the Naxalite Movement also. Naxalite movement had its presence in many states like Andhra Pradesh and it was found that CPIM (Maoist) has a significant cadre of women from Andhra Pradesh. The women cadre of CPIM (Maoist) from Andhra Pradesh participated in the Naxal operations at AOB, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal (Red Corridor).  In the Naxalite movement, women have played various roles as couriers, combatants, peace builders, activists and politicians.
The mid-1970s autonomous women’s groups (AWG). Were brought in to light. These groups claimed to focus more sharply on gender and feminist issues It was increasingly realized that women’s movements needed to be organized from a feminist perspective with autonomy of organization, Some of the earliest autonomous women’s groups were the Progressive Organization of Women (POW, Hyderabad), The POW in Hyderabad organized new and fresh protests against dowry
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed increased violence on women. In the pre-emergency period (early 1970s) the Progressive Organization for Women (POW) emerged and brought to the fore problems and issues of middle class women. The movement organized middle class women on social and cultural issues like dowry, alcoholism, relief from the double burden of housework and outside work and economic issues like equal pay and the right to work.
All the major political parties, the Congress, BJP, CPI, and CPI (M) in Andhra Pradesh have their Women’s wings. Their political commitment is more leftist than Liberal.

From the mid-1990s the strategy of women’s organizations shifted to a ‘Joint Action Committee’ as an issue-based expression of solidarity, having their individual identities

In Andhra Pradesh, India, an anti-arrack movement in the 1990s was created which grew out of the awareness brought about by the mass-literacy campaigns of the National Literacy Mission (NLC). It began as a spontaneous movement against alcoholism in a remote village in Dubaganta, supported by the NLC in Nellore and adopted by the other districts of Andhra Pradesh. It is noted that there was no organized leadership to start within the anti-arrack movement.

Most of the groundwork was done with local initiative, with women collectively protesting against arrack in their villages. With the movement gathering momentum, political parties entered at the very last stage. Eventually, the movement resulted in the declaration of total prohibition of liquor in India. In addition, it provided a change in the party in power in the state. It also showed a feminist way of looking at issues, especially politics, thus aligning women's issues to the larger issues of state and society.

However, as a result of the deeply rooted problem of alcoholism and its political dynamics the agitation could not be sustained for long. Issues of such nature need a broad based movement though sporadic agitations against arrack by women still continue. The
Women’s movement in the state has created a political space for itself, and generated political consciousness and an understanding of political processes among women
By the nineties the state had effectively taken over the women’s movement by mobilizing them around thrift issues. In the context of globalization, the state treats women
as a homogenous group to address any action or programme for women. The creation of women’s self-help groups on a mass scale seems to nurture depoliticized collective
action that is not threatening the power structure and political order. On the other hand there is a shift within the women’s movement from the ‘one women’s movement’ of the late 1970s to ‘several women’s movements’ from various perspectives of regional, local, caste, ethnic and minority specific issues

In 2000, with world Bank support, the government of Andhra Pradesh expanded the program as a thrift based program where women could make small savings, revolve their own resources, and meet their families’ critical consumption and food needs. The program has since evolved into a movement for the all-round empowerment of poor women-social, legal political, and economic promotes women's social, economic, legal and political empowerment to reduce poverty among the poor and the poorest of the poor.
The World Bank project has helped take the women's Self Help Group movement to all 22 districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The women Self Help Groups (SHGs) hold regular weekly meetings, save and repay regularly, and use trained bookkeepers for proper bookkeeping. All SHG members abide by the principles of saying no to child marriages, child labor, domestic violence and wasteful expenditures The women discuss family planning, the number of children they should have, and the spacing between births, indicating a significant change in their ability to exercise reproductive choice within the household. They also  take up difficult issues like domestic violence, the trafficking of women and children, and the jogini system of exploitation. Women’s groups have been able to prevent child marriages, .
Reduce child labor. Women’s groups discuss sensitive issues such as gender violence, and make special efforts to identify victims and help them to start new livelihoods. Social empowerment issues have become the basis for the subsequent economic empowerment of women. The program enables women’s organizations to develop the skills to negotiate with market institutions and develop other financial services. Grassroots leaders developed through the program have contested local government elections; and 9500 women from SHGs and their federations have been elected at various levels.

During  the  last decade Women Movements in Andhra Pradesh made a number of gains in a variety of spheres:  Domestic Violence, Harassment of the Women by their In -Laws, Atrocities against women,  Eve-teasing, Women /Child Trafficking,  Child Labor, Save Girl Child , and the Jogini System Etc.

Eve-Teasing incidents like Sri Lakshmi murder Case  at Guntur, rape and death case of  Ayesha of Tenali and  the gruesome murder  incident at Tenali  recently  where a dalit women lost her life saving her daughter  from eve-teasers  which attracted the attention of whole Andhra Pradesh where the predators were booked under Nirbhaya Act for the  first time in Andhra Pradesh.
Initiatives for Women Empowerment in Andhra Pradesh
Empowerment of women is the hall mark of the approach of the Government in its development initiatives (social, political and economic). The State Empowerment Policy for women aims at the following objectives:-
- Gender equality
- Gender justice
- Social security
- Elimination of discrimination against women in all walks of life
- Economic development and integration of women into main stream of economy.
As a token of state’s commitment to remove all barriers in the way of women’s participation in the main stream of development, the State Govt. declared 1997 as the year of ‘Gender Equality with Social Justice’. Steps have been taken to provide specific provisions for women towards equality in all fields, political, social, economic and cultural.
The Department is playing a conscious role in empowering of women by striving to enforce:
  • The reservation of 33 1/3rd Jobs for women in Govt. and public sector with carry forward policy.
  • The 33 1/3rd of budget of all departments for developmental programmes for women.
  • Implementation of Girl Child Protection Scheme.
  • Opportunities to participate through mother’s committees and IGA groups. The year 2001 has celebrated as ‘Year of Women Empowerment and the year 2003 as the Year of Adolescent Girls’.
  • 50% of seats are reserved for the Women in the Local body Elections.
  • State Mahila Commission was established.
  • The Government of Andhra Pradesh Started Bangarutalli Programme in 2013  for the overall development of the girl child and gave it legal sanctity.
The Andhra Pradesh government has initiated a unique integration of programmes across key departments to improve health, nutrition, water and sanitation services offered to women and children. And, the State government’s strategy to improve the health and nutrition status of women and children — inter-departmental coordination — has attracted the attention of the Centre too.


The status of women in Andhra Pradesh in comparison to the all-India situation shows higher female workforce participation rate, less gender disparity in workforce
Participation rate, lower female unemployment rate and higher female share in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector. This reflects the greater extent of female
Participation in the economy of Andhra Pradesh, given the fact that there had been no public policy regarding entitlement of land to women until recently. These factors clearly indicate the relatively larger space in power structure occupied by women in Andhra Pradesh, compared to the all-India level

The higher participation of women in household decisions and relatively lower incidence of women experiencing violence caused by spouses (NFHS III) indicates that women in AP are able to exercise greater degree of independence in comparison to all-India. The
higher participation of women in wage and self-employment programmes implemented by the state government highlights the fact that women in AP are more connected to the
State than at the all India level (GOI, 2006).

However, AP occupies the first and the second place in regard to the incidence and rate of total cognizable crimes committed against women among all the states of India. This clearly indicates that the expanded private and public space for women had resulted in questioning patriarchal values, leading to enhanced crime against women in the state compared to All-India.

Ultimately, it can be concluded that women’s movements in AP have resulted in more space for women in the economy, society, polity and also within the household in the state compared to all-India.


·       Women’s Movement in India by Aparna Basu
·       Women Movement in Andhra Pradessh by R. Pandey
·       When Women awake by M.Larsson
·       Anti Arrack movement in Andhra Pradesh by B. Sarveswara Rao
·       Anti Arrack agitation of women in Andhra Pradesh by DN Reddy
·       Human and Social Development in AP by Aponline.com
·       Dalit and Naxalite movements in AP by Economic and Political Weekly.
·       Women’s role in the Naxalite Movement by Prathibha Singh
·       Telangana Peoples struggle and its lessons by P.Sundaraiah.



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