Social Scientist. v 13, no. 143 (April 1985) p. 61.


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KUMAD SHARMA. SAHBA HUSAJN AND ARCHANA SAHARTA, WOMEN IN FOCUS : A COMMUNITY IN SEARCH OF EQUAL ROLES (A Centre forWomen*s Development Studies Monograph), Sangam Books, New Delhi, pp, 116, Rs. 30.

ISSIJES relating to women, both in the economic sphere as well as in their social visibility, are in greater focus now. The motivation to intervene in their own future now activates many women academics and professionals to give substance to slogans of equality and emancipation. But the question that a reading of this monograph raises is : Is intervention enough to gain for the women of India an unfettered wo rid ? Intervention is, after all, a process that tries to gain concessions, no boubt by creating an awareness, within the established nature of man-woman relationships which then determine their social status and their relation to the process of production. Can intervention replace the struggle for social change, to realize equal oppurtunity and equal roles for women in Indian society ?

This study is based on extensive data collected from two small towns of Uttar Pradesh—Etawah and Barakanki—relaringto (he status of women, where many social indicators are used to point out their absolute lack of oppurtunity. It is easy to be led awav into looking at women as a "community" when one is quantifying inequalities at such a level. That the team has made a genuine attempt to be as representative of reality as possible is apparent; but their own standpoint that one can bring about changes in values through intervention if one can capture the relevant entry points, and translate these into practical programmes and acceptable goals, often clouds the quest.

Again, as the writers pose at the very begining. How can sex equality be realized within a social system characterized by inequalities of class, caste and sex ? Can such a study therefore be looked at as the search for an abstract principle ? I am afraid it is bound to be so, when the existence of the link of sex oppression is much weaker than the class or caste link, whicli pressure groups would find very difficult to organize, but which can be focussed much more effectively by ideologies, because it is only the political parties that can unite women vertically through the democratic movement.

Let us now return to the concept of looking at women as a "community". The word itself suggests a cultural unity which is the result of concrete forces working in society. In Western societies this unity may have asserted itself, in the face of patriarchal oppression. When we try to impose such a cultural unity in a country like India, where feudal, semi-feudal and capitalist relations co-exist, we run into contradictions. The authors of the monograph are aware of these contradictions when they express many of the problems they faced in the process of their field work. Despite the contradictions which they recognized, they were not motivated to change the framework of their study. Their call for action is seen in the form of constraints which interventionists are bound to face. On the one hand, the possibilities of micro-action are limited by structural constraints, and, on the other, macro-level developments



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