By Claire Zillman
August 15, 2017

CNN is marking the 70th anniversary of India’s and Pakistan’s independence from Britain this week (India observes it today; Pakistan did so yesterday) by profiling some of the nations’ female freedom fighters, recalling the stories of their contributions that are often left untold. Mahatma Gandhi is the most famous face of the liberation movement, but there was also an army of prominent women who fought fiercely for the same cause.

Gandhi’s wife Kasturba, for one, is credited with influencing her husband’s renowned peaceful movement by passively disobeying him. Her activism in India led to her repeated arrest and imprisonment, including in 1942, when she was jailed alongside her husband and other pro-independence leaders for participating in Gandhi’s Quit India movement that encouraged the British to let India rule itself. Kasturba Gandhi died in prison in 1944 without seeing a free India.

“It is the women whose task it becomes to encourage the men, in our fight for freedom,” she said. “Women have better understood the spirit of the fight than men.”

Fatima Jinnah, meanwhile, lived to see her efforts to fruition. She’s the sister of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and remembered as “Madar-i Millat,” the mother of the nation. The English-educated dentist’s active role in politics and women’s rights even before Pakistan’s founding was considered a step forward for women there. Her crusade continued after Pakistan’s independence when she ran for president in the mid-1960s when she was in her 70s. She lost the race, but her pursuit of a role considered unacceptable for women was another bold move praised by Pakistanis.

Jinnah’s brother aptly stated women’s role in the push for independence: “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.” The best tribute to these women would be more countries adhering to that sentiment.

—@clairezillman

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