Bihar’s Yashoda paves the way for empowering new-age women in India


When the country is still struggling to do poetic justice with women in the 21st century, a small-town woman from West Champaran district in Bihar fought widespread social, economic, and political barriers, successfully chased her dreams in a patriarchal society and encouraged women to go beyond their role of homemaking through her indomitable spirit 50 years ago.

A recently launched book ‘Yashoda: The Real Story of a Swayamprabha Woman’ by author Manoj Kumar Rao, describes her struggles as a hallmark in the journey of life, which is not so much about what one’s accomplishments but what one overcomes.

The writer says ‘Yashoda’ is a narrative of a self-independent woman whose life’s journey defined women’s empowerment and promoted their self-worth, ability to determine their own choices, and their right to influence social change for themselves and others five decades ago, a rare development in those days.

“My maiden book ‘Yashoda’ deals with several aspects of our society, including untouchability, religious rituals, focus on female education and sterilisation, fight for equality and drive against unsocial elements, and conservatism, and features the inherent strength of women, the genesis of our existence,” Rao told IANS.

By standing up for equality and against social and sex discrimination in the 1970s, Yashoda Devi, who hailed from Bettiah in Bihar, led from the front, helped other women speak up, and empowered them, he said, adding that the central theme of the book can be comprehended in the lessons of small stories of her unconventional initiatives, deeds and practices.

The book says that in her childhood Yashoda defeated her two brothers in the running events. Later, in her middle age, she was elected as the first district councillor from the unreserved seat Chanpatia in West Champaran. She left for her heavenly abode after empowering many women. The empowerment was an essential to the health and social development of families and communities in Bihar.

“Though Yashoda Devi is no longer with us, her stories are well inspiring for new-age women. She was a woman with a voice, an indicator of a strong woman. I wanted to tell her tales of fearlessness and audacity in such a way that can help today’s women understand their own worth and strength and act accordingly,” says Manoj Rao.

All 14 chapters of the book in Hindi focus on every facet of women’s empowerment for the betterment of society. They set up examples galore for women of the new India and its evolution. It highlights that starting up as a woman in small towns in India is a tough task and shares steps to overcome daily challenges and concerns amid challenges galore.

“Yashoda believes that healthy, educated, and empowered women and girls are the real agents of change. Her efforts and inspirations help women and girls rise in social standing and feed this into future generations,” the book captures.

As a district councillor, Rao points out, Yashoda Devi used to say women in small towns have been the key agents for achieving the transformational changes required for sustainable development. Their daily works for families and society and pride of being the homemakers paved the way for making women more responsible and empowering them times ahead.

In view of their presence in society, the author mentions, empowering women is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families, and communities but also to the overall welfare of the entire ecosystem.

Once English romantic poet asked a potent question: “Can a man be free if a woman is a slave?” “The interrogation resonates deeply in one’s heart, how far have we come,” Rao asks?

Undoubtedly, India has come a long way on the back of the narratives and milestones of many Yashodas in society, though there is still a long way to go before women can truly become empowered, believes the author.


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