Three or four decades ago, the mentally vis-à-vis women in Mauritius was very traditional. Very few women enjoyed freedom to seek education or any
kind of training. A majority of them were viewed as second-class citizens and this was justified as being the natural result of the biological differences between the two sexes. As men were the sole
breadwinners, the role of women was relegated. All decision taking was in the hands of the husband. Moreover, the freedom of women was restricted as most families were extended.
After independence, much emphasis was laid on industrialization. Industrial zones were being set up and incentives were given for foreign
investment. As a result of the extensive use of machines particularly in the field of textile and clothing, manpower was greatly needed to work in factories. Thus, female labour was absorbed by this
industry. In the early seventies, many women began to leave their homes and start working, thus adding to the monthly income of the family. Today more than 75% of women work in textile
factories. As a result women began to enjoy economic independence, their status in society rose and they enjoyed more dignity. The whole approach towards women changed. Women today are no longer
regarded as the inferior sex and enjoy more equality.
As a result of economic independence, there was a change in the structure of the family unit. We began to have more nuclear families. In such a step,
the traditional role of women began to lose importance. Both husband and wife have a role to play and start living on equal terms. At the same time trade unions began to fight for equal wages and
such demands were backed up by feminist movements fighting for equal rights. Those organizations consisted mainly of intellectuals, both men and women. As there were mainly sexist laws that are to the
detriment of emancipation of women, the authorities concerned were pressurized to change those obsolete laws and replace them with more equal ones.
Another factor, which has played a major role in boosting up the status of the Mauritian women, is education. Free education was granted in
1976. Since then, many more women and girls began to have access to education. Today, many boys and girls reach tertiary education. Moreover, legislation has been passed to make education
compulsory till the age of sixteen. Girls completing tertiary education are thus able to occupy posts of responsibility. In almost all sectors, women are present, performing jobs once considered as
male-oriented like, police force, driving vehicles and management posts.
We are living in a democratic country and we are definitely open to outside influences. Media keeps us informed about changes occurring
elsewhere, particularly in the western society where women are gaining an increasing respect. Here also the mentality is fast changing. The concept of equality is gaining ground and women are no
longer regarded as inferior.
As changes are occurring in our society whereby the process of modernization is taking place, the role of the Mauritian women will keep
changing. Many young women are postponing their marriages to lay more emphasis on their personal career. It is true that there is still a few sexist laws and many women lawyers are drawing people`s
attention to replace them with more liberal ones.