Mother Teresa was an ambassador for the power of unconditional love. As the founder of Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, she led a global movement that served the sick, orphaned, dying, and poor. True, she was a nun and technically not allowed to marry, but that didn’t stop her from showing the world that no woman needs a man to conquer it.
The Nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar has been bestowed with Bharat Ratna. She has moved people with her melodious voice, including former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Can there be a better testimony to the power of a single woman in India? The Man Booker Prize Winner, Kiran Desai has created a name for herself in literary circles. Producer Ekta Kapoor has to her credit Balaji Telefilms that has revived the TV Industry in India.
Miss Universe Sushmita Sen once said “I don’t need a man in my life to have diamonds. I can own them myself.” West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati are examples that though in most cases there is a woman behind every successful man behind these women, there was none but themselves.
The list is endless and it shows Indian single women are no way less than their counterparts across the globe that redefined spinsterhood. Diane Keaton, the Academy Award sinning actress once famously said, “I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less. That old-maid myth is garbage”. Oprah Winfrey said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”. Renowned Civil rights activist Susan B. Anthony said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man but must be taught to protect herself”.
As per the 2011 Census of India, there were 71.4 million single women which is 12% of the
female population. There was a 39% increase in the number of single women in India, the numbers rising from 51.2 million in 2001 to 71.4 million in 2011, according to census data. Single women in the age group of 25-29 have seen the greatest increase (68%) between 2001 and 2011 in rural areas. The situation is the same in urban areas. There are 12.3 million single women who never married. Overall, there are 44.4 million single women in rural areas, almost 62% of single women in India. Although rural single females outnumber their urban counterparts, there was a 58% increase in the number of urban single women, from 17.1 million in 2001 to 27 million in 2011.
Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of single women, 12 million; the majority has never been married, followed by Maharashtra at 6.2 million and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh at 4.7 million. UP again leads the table with households headed by women, 2.5 million, followed by Andhra Pradesh (2.5 million) and Tamil Nadu (2.4 million).
The perils of single women could be gauged from what National Forum for Single Women’s Rights report says, “Single women in rural areas have to constantly battle societal prejudices and fight for survival.” NFSWR findings suggest that “In Jharkhand, for example, tribal women cannot own land in their own names, and we are fighting to change the law.” Even where women have the legal right, the fact is that actual possession and control of land is a distant dream for many. It is heartening that many women who are single have outshined men in such a society, which is patriarchal at heart.