Welcome Speech : M Haleema Beevi

Translated by J Devika

[This is an earlier version of the translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, published by Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, refer the book]

Haleema Beevi (1920-2000) was born in Adoor in Tiruvitamkoor. She and her sister were sent to school, quite against the normal practice for Muslim girls, and she studied up to the fifth class, braving stone throwing hooligans and other such deterrents. Married at the age of sixteen, she was encouraged in her public activities by her husband, who was close to prominent Muslim reformers of the time like Vakkom Abdul Khader Moulavi. She ran a magazine for women, the Muslim Vanita in the late 1930s, which later appeared under the name Vanita. In the 1940s, she started another publication, the Bharatachandrika, which was quite successful as a weekly, but ran into serious financial problems when it was converted into a daily. She left journalism in 1947, to make a brief attempt again in 1970, with a magazine titled Adhunika Vanita, which, however, proved unsuccessful. She ran a press at Tiruvalla, and during the period of persecution under Dewan C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer’s dictatorial regime, she learnt printing, composing and binding to print leaflets and other material for the protesters. She was a member of the Municipal Board of Tiruvalla, the first Muslim woman to become a Municipal Councillor, the president of the Tiruvalla Muslim Women’s Association, and an active member of the Muslim Majlis. Interest in her life and work has finally grown stronger with a new generation of young Muslim women in Kerala taking an active interest in gender identity and the possibilities in the faith for gender equality. A new biography of her is forthcoming.

Continue reading “Welcome Speech : M Haleema Beevi”

Our Women: Nidheerikkal Mariam (Mrs I C Chacko)

Translated by J Devika

[This is an earlier version of the translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, published by Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, refer the book]

 

Nidheerikkal Mariam, later Mrs. I. C. Chacko, (1892-1966) was born in a distinguished Syrian Christian family in Alappuzha, as the daughter of a well-known lawyer, Nidheerikkal Cyriac. She was educated in Thiruvananthapuram, passing the F. A examination from the Maharajah’s College for Women. However, unlike two of her younger sisters Teresa Nidhiry and Anna Nidhiry, who both had careers in education, she did not pursue her studies. At seventeen, she was married off to I.C. Chacko, who was to be known as a brilliant scholar and intellectual in Tiruvitamkoor. She was known to be an outspoken and uncompromising champion of women’s rights. The article below is the speech she made at the women’s meeting held as part of the All-Kerala Catholic Conference at Pala in Tiruvitamkoor in 1924-25. I. C. Chacko’s biographer notes that the speech created a veritable storm within the community, and that she and her husband received threatening letters after that. She is also said to have published a volume of stories titled Sanmargakathakal.

Continue reading “Our Women: Nidheerikkal Mariam (Mrs I C Chacko)”

On the Freedom of Women: Anna Chandy

Translated by J Devika

[this is an earlier version of my translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, which was published by Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

     Anna Chandy (1905-1996) was one of the most articulate representatives of the ‘first-generation’ feminists in Malayali society, but she is now much better known for her remarkable career. Brought up in Thiruvananthapuram, she earned a post-graduate degree with distinction in 1926, and went on to become the first woman in Kerala to earn a degree in Law. She joined the Bar in 1929 and soon earned fame as an eminent practitioner in Criminal Law, and as an ardent champion of women’s rights, especially in the publication she founded and edited, Shrimati. She was a member of the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly between 1932-34, and was appointed  First Grade Munsif in 1937, the first Malayali woman to occupy the post. In 1948, she became District Judge and a High Court Judge in 1959. She also served as a member of the Law Commission after her retirement in 1967. Her autobiography was serialised in the Malayala Manorama in 1971, and published under the title Atmakatha in 1973 (Thrissur: Carmel Books). Continue reading “On the Freedom of Women: Anna Chandy”