At Home And Work, RSS Has A Model For The New-Age Woman

By Pooja Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A fascinating look at how one political organization in India is helping to empower women.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Shivani Dani is a 28-year-old financial consultant based in Nagpur.

The computer science graduate, who runs her own private company, does not remember when she started going to the local ‘shakha’.

“I was just a little girl and found the games there very exciting. Over the years more and more friends joined me and it became a part of my life,” says Dani. She says what she learned at the shakha were simple everyday skills that came handy — from sports to group discussions and self-defense to arts.

Many girls like Dani are a part of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, often considered the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The Samiti, which celebrated 80 years of its foundation this year, currently has 3.8 lakh members, and claims to organize nearly 4,350 shakhas regularly.

Much like the RSS, the organization’s social projects are usually taken with a pinch of salt because of its unapologetic ideal of creating ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

Contrary the mainstream feminist ideas that aim to free women from restrictive social structures, the Samiti looks at achieving women empowerment within the setup of family and nation. The ideology is not backed by much theoretical study and documentation, however, it finds a practical appeal with the members.

Ebullient and confident, Shivani switches between Hindi and English with as ease as between sarees and jeans.

“Nobody ever told us what to wear at the Shakha. Of course there was a uniform for special occasions. Moreover, we were constantly running around organizing things taking part in sports, we wore what was comfortable,” she says.

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