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Learning unlocks all doors

Newsletter Issue 34 : Jan 2013

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Women in Champaran

An anecdote from Gandhi's life

Sensitivity for the problems of women as the weakest among the weak was another trait of Gandhi.

Gandhi had sent a team of workers to study and report on the problems of the Champaran district. But the report they gave him did not refer to any problems of the women there "How can any report be complete without an account of the womens problems?', he asked. The workers told Gandhi that the women of Champaran were very shy and would not meet them.

Gandhi then deputed Kasturba Gandhi and Avantikabai Gokhale to visit Champaran to report on women's agony. The women of Champaran would not first meet them and even open their doors.

At sunset Kasturba Gandhi knocked one door and told the women inside: " We are moving your town from sunrise to sunset. We are now thirsty. Will you not offer us a glass of water ?" A door was then slightly opened. A woman's hand peeped out with a glass of water on her palm. Kasturba drank water and then said: " Sister we have seen your hand. We have seen the glass of water on your palm. But we want to see the women behind this hand." The woman inside broke down. She said: "Three women of our household share only one untorn saree and as one woman has gone out with that saree how could others open the door for you and expose our semi-naked bodies?" Kasturba told the weeping woman: "Close the door. The doors of your heart are opened." Kasturba and Avantikabai, touched by the reply, returned to Gandhi with this heart-rending report about women in Champaran.

It steeled Gandhi's determination not to rest till the honour of these women were restored.