As a great humanist, Mahatma Gandhi had discussed at length the role, significance, and contribution of youth and women for societal change and for humanity as a whole.
Gandhi emphasised that the youth (girls and boys, both) is important for nation-building. That is amply clear from two words – the ‘life’ and the ‘salt’ (of the nation) used by him and the equality of woman and man is beyond any doubt. Simultaneously, he also emphasised on the role and contribution of youth and women in upliftment of society and for nation building.
The Gandhian view (undoubtedly based on realities of life and premised around Mahatma Gandhi’s experiments with truth in particular) is one of the best approaches available to mankind for progress and prosperity in life. Its distinctiveness lies in the fact that it incorporates high human values – especially the supreme value of Ahimsa [non-violence]. Moreover, it is committed to morality and ethics – the two foremost features of Ahimsa itself. It ordains carrying out day-to-day activities on the basis of morality and ethics. It is important to note that it makes discharging one’s responsibilities and performing duties the acid test a person’s morality and ethics. That is why the Gandhian view emerges as the most significant in the context of youth and women. Simultaneously, it is capable of giving appropriate direction to youth on one hand and aims to bring women to the same platform as men for reshaping society.
This can also be well grasped from the message in the root of the above-mentioned statements, and the practical application undertaken by Gandhi. Categorically, the message is to understand one’s duties and responsibilities and discharge them dispassionately. The Gandhian way expects this from one and all at all levels and in all walks of life.
In context of women, Mahatma Gandhi himself admits, “Women has been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible and in the shaping of which she had no hand.” The Mahatma went on to add that, “They [women] can never be imposed from outside. Men have not realized this truth in its fullness in their behaviour towards women. They have considered themselves to be lords and masters of women instead of considering them as their friends and co-workers. (India of My Dreams, page 224)
The clarity we find in the Gandhian view pertaining to youth and women seems unique and is not often found in ideas, addresses and writings of thinkers. Apart from this, the manner in which he prepared ground for active participation of youth and women in national liberation movement of India and simultaneously engaged them in constructive work for enhancement of their own self-sufficiency was astonishing and remains unparalleled till today. Not only this, Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944), Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949), Sucheta Kriplani (1908-74), Aruna Asaf Ali (1909-96), Durgabai Deshmukh (1909-81), Mnibehn Vallabhbhai Patel (1903-90), Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (1903-88), Muthulakshmi Reddy (1886-1968), Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (1889-1964), Renuka Ray (1904-97), Usha Mehta (1920-2000), Padmaja Naidu (1900-75), Vijay Laxmi Pandit (1900-90), Rukmini Laxmipatti (1892-1951), Meerabehn (1892-1982), Bibi Amtuslam, Mithubehn Petit, Indumati Chimanlal Seth and Premebehn Kantak (1906-85), were some of the iconic figures among the thousands of brave women who came in the forefront during the national liberation movement on Gandhi’s call. Most of them emerged as public figures and exemplary social workers.
Unfortunately, the Gandhian viewpoint pertaining to women did not receive due response in free India. The Mahatma had urged for social reforms so that men could realise the importance of women’s role in their time space. He desired men to change their mentality towards women.