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The Working Women Of World War Two

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Women in the workforce is not a recent trend. Before World War Two they were limited to house chores, nursing, or as a governess for a wealthy family. World War Two approached not just with change at the global level, but job opportunities for women were also enhanced, and they took their charge into their hands.

All the men had gone to war, and their female counterparts had been called to work for the war effort at home. Invitations to work in different sectors made them well versed in several occupations.

 Jobs which were accomplished by women:

  • Plumbers
  • Building Ships
  • Air raid wardens
  • Ambulance Drivers
  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Helpers
  • Domestic help
  • Factory workers

 Why did they step out?

  • Economical reasons.
  • Lack of labor force.
  • Need for tailors to stitch army uniforms.
  • Requirements of cooks for the soldiers. 
  • Men were at the war front, so women did all their work in the absence of men
  • There was no way to earn money for an unmarried girl, so they took their livelihood into their own hands.
  • All the resources had been decreasing during the war, so they also needed to increase their livelihoods to survive.
  • Schools and colleges were closed, so women had to teach the students.
  • Difficult working conditions: Some of them worked in a hazardous environment, which was very precarious. Work involved explosive items, sulfur, and other chemicals.
  • Their hair and skin turned yellow due to the constant exposure with chemicals. Therefore they were called canary girls.
  • Women did not receive any proper training for the dangerous work that they undertook. This led to numerous accident and loss of life
  • They had to work for long hours, sometimes seven days a week, out of human capability.
  • They also faced sexual harassment from the men they were working with.

 Racism during World War 2 was rampant. Minority women were faced with difficult situations. Black women were not allowed in  Defense or higher positions. White women often objected to working together with black women.

Black women preferred factory or blue color jobs. They also had the option to work as domestic help.

Ernest Bevin, the government minister for labor, declared one million wives were “Wanted for War Work. The National service Act had been passed in 1941 for the recruitment of women in various jobs. 

The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

 ATS  was the women’s branch of the British Army in World War Two.

They were not allowed on the field but were restricted to::

  • Cooks
  • Postal Workers
  • Storekeepers
  • Drivers
  • Cleaning Job 

The Post-War Condition Of Women 

The work and responsibility which they had taken during World War Two had come to an end after the war.

Most of them felt ready to go back to their ‘so-called’ right place as housewives. Apart from that, some were not happy to look behind. They wanted to continue working and improve their skills after the war.

Women’s empowerment And The War 

War changed the lives of millions in several ways. Many lost their lives and families. On the other hand, the seed of women’s empowerment had been sown during World War Two.

Women were previously limited to house chores and minimal job opportunities, but World War Two opened the gate for them. They got numerous jobs during World War Two.

Women saw a new, previously unknown way of life and realized their hidden potential, and stood against the political norms which limited their place in the society specific spaces.

They raised their voice against the discrimination which they had faced for a long time.

World War Two proved to be metamorphic for millions of women. They provoked the challenges and upgraded themselves as they were learning numerous jobs based on the nation’s necessity.

Division of the work among men and women had been denied before the world war period. However, women proved themselves equal to the with their far-reaching efforts and zeal.

Rosie was the representative of millions of females who strived for their nation.

Rosie the Riveter is the most famous icon which represented millions of women who participated in the war. Rosie the Riveter was a robust, self-sufficient female who rolled up her sleep to show that ‘We can do it. ‘

Rosie was the representative of millions of females who strived for their nation. 


To conclude, I am inclined to say that all these females were outstanding and equally contributed to their nations’ victory. They were harmonizing their female identity with their accountability as the mother and sister, daughter, etc. Their determination and enthusiasm paved the way for women’s empowerment for the coming generations.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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