A Move towards Emancipation: Women’s Education in Colonial India, with a special focus on the Northeast
It has been advocated by a large numbers of scholars and historians that the lives of Indian women began to change significantly for the first time in the nineteenth century when the colonial government, appalled by many repressive patriarchal practices and socio-cultural norms of the Brahmanical and Islamic societies, raised the voice for native women’s education and reformation. The training of the Indian woman, especially in Western values and dictates, is considered to have been the first step in their path towards modernization and emancipation. Education ushered in considerable awareness among the then Indian women, imbibing in them many positive values of life, and inciting them to stand up against many societal evils and malpractices which plagued them and hindered them from leading a decent life. Women like Sarojini Naidu, Pandita Ramabai, Rokeya Shekhawat Hussain, who emerged as guiding lights for the common Indian women, inspiring them to awake to a new life and understanding, were but the products of this new wave of education which had started dawning upon the Indian society in the colonial era. All the same, women’s education was never something which was accomplished in a very smooth or easy manner. Gender discrimination persisted not only in the Indian society but also within the interstices of the colonial power-matrices. For quite a long time, women’s education as an agenda did not gain much ground either with the colonists or the nationalists, and women continued to be burdened under the weight of irrational beliefs and superstitions even when their male counterparts started embracing the new trend of Westernization and cultural renaissance brought in by the white masters.