The Rashtra Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers Committee) is a Hindu nationalist women's organisation that parallels the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for men. Even though it is often referred to as the "women's wing" of the RSS, the organisation claims that it is independent of the RSS while sharing its ideology. Membership and leadership is restricted to women and its activities are directed to nationalist devotion and mobilisation of Hindu women.
Laxmibai Kelkar was the founder of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti. Before establishing the organization, Kelkar visited Dr. K.B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, in 1936 and had a long discussion to persuade him regarding the need for starting a women's wing in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh itself. Hedgewar, though, continued to restrict membership of the RSS to men. However, Hedgewar advised Laxmibai Kelkar to establish an entirely separate organization that would be autonomous and independent of the RSS, as both groups were ideologically identical. Hedgewar promised Kelkar unconditional solidarity, support and guidance for the Samithi. Following this, Kelkar established the Rashtra Sevika Samiti at Wardha on 25 October 1936.
So long as this force is not awakened, society cannot progress"
Laxmibai Kelkar, Founder of Rashtra Sevika Samiti.
Rashtra Sevika Samiti is today the largest Hindu women's organization working to uphold Indian culture and traditions. RSS women are actively involved in socio-cultural activities. Samiti inculcates a sense of patriotism and social awareness in people. Various types of training camps at different levels in all parts of India are conducted periodically.
Active Shakhas (local branches with regular gatherings of members where they practice yoga, sing nationalist/patriotic songs, military training and have discussions) of the Samiti currently operate in 5215 centers. 875 centers conduct the Shakhas on a daily basis. The estimates of active membership range from 100,000 to 1 million It has overseas branches in 10 countries, which use the name Hindu Sevika Samiti.
Samiti also runs 475 service projects all over India for the poor and underprivileged, without regard to religion, caste, creed, sect, gender, or ethnicity. These include schools, libraries, computer training centers and orphanages.
Rashtra Sevika Samiti focuses on Hindu women's role in the society as leaders and agents of positive social reform. Samiti teaches its members three ideals;
- Matrutva (Universal Motherhood)
- Kartrutva (Efficiency and Social Activism)
- Netrutva (Leadership)
The organization believes that all women have the capability to create a positive change in their community.
Chiefs of the organization
- Lakshmi-bai Kelkar (मावशी लक्ष्मीबाई केळकर, Founder, known as Mavashi Kelkar), from October 1936 to November 1978 (her death)
- Saraswati Apte (सरस्वती आपटे, knows as Tai Apte), 1978-1994
- Usha-tai Chati (उषाताई चाटी, Aug 1927 - Aug 2017), headed the organization from 1994 to 2006
- Pramila-tai Medhe (प्रमिला-ताई मेढे), 2006-2012, currently acts as advisor
- V Shantha Kumari (शान्ताक्का, Shanthakka, born 1952); chief from 2012 to date
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