Why are there no women on India’s currency notes? That’s a question being posed by a Change.org campaign launched by a school science teacher based in Kolkata.
Born on Twitter a week ago and also publicised via a blog and the online petition, the campaign is also asking people to vote for which woman they would like to see on a Rs 100 note.
Poonam Singh says her campaign was inspired by a similar one in the US earlier this year.
“Some might ask what difference it will make having a woman on a hundred-rupee note. But it goes beyond symbolism,” she says. “It is something that might inspire a little girl who sees that note to imagine a brighter future for herself and for India’s women.”
Swarna Rajagopalan, founder of the Prajnya Trust NGO in Chennai, is one of the early supporters of the campaign. “The great thing about this is that it was started by an individual,” she says. “We need to get over the mental block that societal change can only be initiated by the government or an NGO.”
So far, the campaign has listed six potential contenders — freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali, social reformer Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, educationist Pandita Ramabai, the first woman to practice law in both India and Britain, Cornelia Sorabji, political activist Bhikaji Cama, and educationist Savitri Phule. “We’ve stuck to historical figures to avoid much contention,” says Singh.
Among the dozen-odd people that have so far voted for the campaign is Mumbai-based management consultant Parikshit Samant, 34. “Women have always been neglected in their roles as nation-builders,” he says. “Change might be a long process, but every tiny step helps.”
Documentary filmmaker Paromita Vohra, also Mumbai-based, has also promoted the campaign on Twitter and says the outcome doesn’t matter as much as the process.
Currency is important, she adds, because we might not use the stamps with women on them, and we not notice that we’re driving down a road named after a female revolutionary, but we all use the rupee notes.
(To vote on the campaign and get a woman on our rupee notes, go to
WOMEN ON CURRENCY: AROUND THE WORLD
* USA: A campaign begun this year aims to put a woman on the $20 bill. Nominees include suffragette Harriet Tubman and racial equality pioneer Rosa Parks.
* Argentina: Former first lady and suffragette Eva Peron appears on the current 100 peso bill.
* New Zealand: Besides Queen Elizabeth II on the 20 dollar bill, New Zealand’s 10 dollar bill bears the image of suffragette Kate Sheppard.
* England: Every note has Queen Elizabeth II on it; in the past, bills have also featured nurse Florence Nightingale and social reformer Elizabeth Fry. A new 10 pound note will feature author Jane Austen.
* Israel: Images of two women Israeli writers will be used on currency from this year, poet Rachel Bluwstein and author Leah Goldberg.