July 1980

Extracts from the Speech of Her Highness the Begum Aga Khan to the All-India Women's Conference New Delhi, 26 March 1980

I have read about the work you have been doing for over half a century with great interest and admiration, but it comes as no surprise to me, to learn of the progressive achievements that you have made and are continuing to make, as I have the good fortune to be born here in Delhi and from my earliest childhood was conscious of the effort that enlightened women have made in social problems in India.

Philanthropic and voluntary work, education, health and welfare and indeed administration and management are all domains in which women can make a most useful contribution, and indeed excel. In many families, today, the woman is the bread-winner which shows that the old prejudices against the working woman are dying everywhere.

It is a splendid achievement when either parent could be financially capable of supporting the family unit, but this can only happen where there is equal stress on education for girls as for boys and equal incentive for the working woman as for the working man.

We are the wife, the mother, the comforter, the home-keeper, the nurse, the teacher. We have the responsiblity for financial management of the house, and for nutrition, since after all, we choose the food that others eat. We recognize the danger of malnutrition particularly in the formative first five years of a child's life and use our hereditary knowledge and skills to balance economy with nutritional needs.

The basic education of the young child is also usually our responsibility. Today if we are given the means, we can supplement and enhance this hereditary knowledge through instruction and modern science.

As long ago as the 1930s, my husband's grandfather said: If you have two children, a boy and a girl, educate the girl first as when she becomes a mother her children will benefit by her education. My husband has continued to stress the importance of women's education.

Your organization has a fine record of helping the needy, the handicapped, the aged and infirm across this vast and colourful country. You have done much to level out the social inequalities which usually do exist in any country where there are many variations in religion and tradition from place to place. When one considers that in India, there are 22 states and 12 principal languages, this is no mean task.

I now inaugurage this conference by wishing you continued and ever increasing success.

Source: Ismaili Mirror

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