Marriage or a Job? T Narayani Amma

[From the Proceedings of the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly  16 November 1933, pp 95-100]

Intervention in the debate on Demand for Supplementary Grants — Education.

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) :         Before I begin my observations on the Report of the Education Reforms Committee [the Statham Committee], I wish, Sir, to thank the Government of His Highness the Maha Raja, for the privilege that has been extended to us, the members of this House, to discuss the Report. It is a rare privilege so far as this House is concerned and a healthy move as far as such Reports are concerned. We feel grateful that unlike some other reports that are gathering dust in some of the archives of the Secretariat, the Education Reforms Committee’s Report gets the benefit of a discussion by the non-official members of the legislature, the welcome impression being created that early action is being contemplated by the Government. This is certainly as it ought to be, and the policy adopted by the Government, I am sure, will be immensely appreciated.

Coming to the Report, Sir, there can be no difference of opinion whatever that it is a very weighty and valuable document which redounds to the credit of the distinguished President of the Committee and his esteemed colleagues. The Committee has spared no pains in making an earnest study of the various aspects of the educational problems in Travancore and has made several important suggestions, which if carried out will give a new orientation to the educational ideals and the educational arrangements in the State. The Committee has found several sore spots in the educational structure and has not hesitated to call a spade a spade. The fundamental aims of education have been well kept in view by the Committee in their general criticisms and in many of their recommendations — recommendations which in my view will go a long way in improving the educational system in Travancore and in increasing the efficiency of instruction in our schools. I believe that whatever differences of opinion there may be with regard to details, the principles underlying such recommendations will generally be recognised as sound.

I am exceedingly sorry to find out, however, that the same thing cannot be said about some of the other things recommended by the Committee. The recommendation, for instance, that the His Highness the Maharajah’s College for Women should confine itself in the future to the Intermediate in Arts and Science and that the degree classes should be closed is one which will be widely protested against. The amount of hesitation with which the Committee has approached the question shows that the Committee is not unaware of the opposition which the recommendation would give rise to.

MR K KUNJUKRISHNA PILLAI (Quilon –1) :      May I know whether the member is aware that the secretary of the women’s conference disclaims that they have anything against the recommendations of the Committee on that point?

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) : I have no information.

The Committee admits that it was only comparatively recently that the college achieved the status of a First Grade College. The Committee is also fully aware of the fact that the public of the State are both proud of the college and keenly interested in its future. The non-residential nature of the college may be said to be a defect and the Committee has done well in recommending provisions for residential accommodation though opinions may differ whether it should be made compulsory forthwith. But why should the degree classes be closed? The reasons advanced are not convincing. The number of students in the B.A. classes may now be comparatively small. But is there any cause to be alarmed at the smallness of number? No college can grow without chances being given to it for expansion. There would have been more students in the B.A. classes if the Mathematics section had not been closed and if the college had been affiliated in other branches also. I may point out in this connection that the Women’s College has had the best results in the university examination. In the B.A classes they have had cent per cent success with classes and distinctions in all parts. Under such circumstances, it is not a wise step to abolish the B.A. classes. The status, position, and individuality of the college will be greatly affected by the adoption of the Committee’s recommendations. The high degree of education attained by the women of Travancore has received warm commendation from all quarters and there is no doubt whatever that one of the factors which contributed to its name and fame has been the existence of a Women’s College. And the conversion of the college into a first-grade institution was hailed with satisfaction by everyone interested in women’s education and women’s advancement. It is an undeniable fact that this forward move has given an additional impetus for women’s education. I for one am not against co-education. But at the same time, I feel very strongly that a separate first-grade collegiate education for women is an imperative necessity for Travancore. There are certain sides of a woman’s character that develop properly only in a women’s institution. The fact, therefore, that we have men’s colleges here where women could also study, is no argument in favour of the abolition of the degree classes in the only institution of its kind in the whole State.  And may I, Sir, ask the Committee, whether there are not other towns in India where more than one women’s college exist side by side with several men’s colleges? What about the separate women’s colleges in Japan, England, and other countries? Much more is the need of a first-grade women’s college in Travancore where women’s education has much headway to make. Above all, in the scheme of a Travancore or Kerala University, there is a definite place for a first-grade women’s college in Trivandrum, and we women cannot bring ourselves to think of its position being lowered.

I am also entirely opposed to the recommendations made by the Committee in regard to the employment of married women in educational services. The Committee admits that taking all grades of work in the Educational department into consideration there are no great disadvantages, but in fact some advantages in recruiting or retaining married women as teachers in departmental primary schools. But they proceed to say that for work in the secondary school or in the administrative branch they do not consider it desirable to retain or recruit married women. How the Committee has arrived at such a conclusion is not clear from the report.  The Committee says that there are “obvious” difficulties in the way of the married woman, particularly a married woman with a family, doing inspecting work or teaching work in the higher grade institutions. To us the difficulties are not so obvious as they are to the Committee. [Laughter] In fact, Sir, the difficulties are rather imaginary than real. If it is a question of efficiency, I ask whether married women in the administrative branch and in the higher grade institutions have ever given room for complaint about their work? My information on the other hand is that their devotion to duty and efficiency have never been questioned. Why should the Committee be then be frightened at the idea of marriage in the case of women? If the Committee thinks that a married woman’s interests will be divided between her home and her work, I cannot help pointing out that the learned members of the Committee are entirely mistaken. A married woman will have even a better sense of responsibility than an unmarried woman and see that her home life will not interfere with her work.

MR. KAYALAM PARAMESVARAN PILLAI (Additional Head Sirkar Vakil) : Will not her official work interfere with her household work?

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) :  That is a difficulty in the case of unmarried women and even men (Laughter). Causes for distraction are common to all. In such matters what has to be considered is not the sex to which a person belongs but whether the work suffers. And if it does, I have not the least objection in action taken against the offenders. Inefficiency ought to be visited with condign punishment whether the offenders be men or women, married or unmarried.

MR. KAYALAM PARAMESVARAN PILLAI (Additional Head Sirkar Vakil) : Is it the member’s idea that no special treatment need to be given to women and that all cases alike must be judged according to the standards of efficiency alone?

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) : I wish I am not interrupted, Sir.

MR. KAYALAM PARAMESVARAN PILLAI (Additional Head Sirkar Vakil) : I am sorry.

DEPUTY PRESIDENT : You may proceed, Mrs Narayani Amma, and if possible, answer Mr Paramesvaran Pillai’s question……

.

….. SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) : It is not right to say that a woman will become inefficient as soon as she marries.

MR K KUNJUKRISHNA PILLAI (Quilon –1) : Does the Report say that married women are inefficient? So far as I remember, it does not.

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) :   What I wish to point out that the idea that a woman will become inefficient as soon as she gets married is absolutely unwarranted. On the other hand she is likely to have a more happy and hopeful outlook on life which will help her work and make her more efficient … [quotes the Census of Travancore which identifies a trend among young women to stay unmarried and asks if this is a desirable tendency for the State] … Marriage and motherhood are the primary rights of women and it is for anyone to deny those rights to those who wish to have them. The question may be asked if the Committee prohibits marriages. In effect, that is what the Committee does. The modern woman’s mentality is in favour of economic independence. If therefore there is a rule like the one recommended by the Committee, the modern woman would rather refuse her offers of marriage than her job. The tendency referred to by the Census Commissioner will thus be encouraged. Is this desirable, I ask?

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