All India Democratic Women's Association

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All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA)
TypeWomen's organisation
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersNew Delhi, India
General secretary
Mariam Dhawale
P.K. Sreemathy
AffiliationsCommunist Party of India (Marxist)

All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) is a women's organisation committed to achieving democracy, equality and women's emancipation. It has an organizational presence in 23 states in India, with a current membership of more than 11 million. About two-thirds of the organisation's strength is derived from poor rural and urban women. It was founded in 1981 as a national level mass organisation of women. It is also the women's wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).[1]

History and scope[edit]

Pappa Umanath founded the Democratic Women's Association in Tamil Nadu in 1973, working for women's rights and for their education, employment and status, along with issues like casteism,[1] communalism, child rights and disaster aid.[2] Several other affiliated State-based organisations developed, and the unified All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) was established in 1981.[3][4]

AIDWA has an annual membership fee of one rupee, which allows it policy-independence from donor agencies and government.[2] In 2007, it had over 10 million members, spread across 23 states.[5]

2002 campaign against Hindustan Lever advertising[edit]

Subtle cultural norms can be easily transgressed. In 2002, widespread protests forced Hindustan Unilever Limited (the Indian subsidiary of London-based Unilever) to cancel a television ad campaign for its fairness cream because of its portrayal of women. The campaign was built around the theme of a father lamenting "If only I had a son" while showing his problem: a dark-skinned, unattractive daughter. She uses the Fair & Lovely cream and has become a gorgeous light-skinned beauty. Clad in a stylish miniskirt, she is a successful airline flight attendant and takes her father to dine at a five-star hotel. AIDWA lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. It argued endorsing the traditional preference for sons strengthens gender discrimination, which is a major problem in India. Furthermore, said AIDWA, the ad perpetuated a culture of discrimination in a society where "fair skin" is synonymous with "beautiful." The government's Ministry of Information and Broadcast sided with AIDWA and directed stations not to air the ads because they violated the Cable and Television Networks Act of 1995 which states that no advertisement shall be permitted which "derides any race, caste, color, creed and nationality" and furthermore states that, "Women must not be portrayed in a manner that emphasizes passive, submissive qualities and encourages them to play a subordinate secondary role in the family and society." The minister told Parliament that if broadcasters do not regulate ad content the government will be forced to do so. The Mumbai-based Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a body of advertisers and media agencies, insisted that it should do the regulating not the government. ASCI had already told Hindustan Lever that its ad campaign was offensive and it was ended.[6]

National Conference of AIDWA[edit]

The first National Conference of AIDWA was held at Chennai in 1981, with delegates from 12 states representing 590,000 members. The eighth National Conference was held at Kolkata in 2007, with 951 delegates from 23 states, representing a membership of around 18,600,000. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu addressed the inaugural session.[7] The 9th National Conference of AIDWA, held at Moti Jheel, Kanpur from 9 to 12 November 2010, was the first conference to be held in the Northern Hindi belt. 753 delegates from 22 states and 20 special invitees took part in the four-day conference. Amidst slogans pledging to carry forward the struggle for women's equality and emancipation, legendary freedom fighter Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal, living symbol of women's fight against imperialism and emancipation, unfurled the AIDWA flag. Floral tributes were paid to martyrs who have laid down their lives in the struggle for equality, democracy and emancipation.

10th National Conference[edit]

AIDWA's 10th National Conference was held in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, from 22 to 25 November 2013. It started with flag hoisting by AIDWA's national president Shyamali Gupta and homage to martyrs who sacrificed their lives for women's emancipation and social justice. The inaugural session featured a special session titled "Women against Violence: Fighting for Justice, Resisting Violence, Claiming Rights", wherein women from across the country who have been fighting the battle against violence, discrimination and social injustice in various forms which includes domestic and political violence, sexual assault, fight for land rights, fight against caste and communal discrimination and against terrorism spoke. The women who spoke included representative of the Vachathi tribal mass rape survivor from Tamil Nadu, Parandhayi, who stood up against her sexual assault by forest and police officials for 19 years and finally succeeded in getting justice.[8]

Office bearers[edit]

  • President– P.K. Shreemathy
  • General Secretary– Mariam Dhawale
  • Treasurer- S. Punyawathi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Hindu, 5 January 2003". Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ a b Women and Aid distribution AIDWA Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, June 2006
  3. ^ CPI (M) leader Pappa Umanath passes away, 18 December 2010
  4. ^ "AIDWA profile". Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
  5. ^ 8TH All India Conference Of AIDWA, November 2007, Calcutta Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Arundhati Parmar, "Objections to Indian ad not taken lightly" Marketing News (9 June 2003) 37#12 pp 4-9
  7. ^ Chattopadhyayt, Suhrid Sankar (4 December 2007). "Call for Action". Frontline. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  8. ^ "AIDWA's National Conference". India News Network (INN). Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2013.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]