January 4, 2020 2:27:03 pm
January 3, 2020 marks the 188th birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule, who is regarded as the first female teacher of India and the mother of feminism. Born in 1981 in Naigaon in Satara district, Maharashtra, she was a prominent figure who worked for the welfare of women, children and fought against discrimination on the basis of caste and gender.
An event, in her memory, was organised in Rose garden, Chandigarh, on Friday. People from various walks of life recited some of her poems translated from Marathi to Hindi and shared their own poems on feminism and queer community in an open mic session later on.
Savitribai was married at the age of nine to Jyotirao Phule, a social activists and educationalist himself who was 13-year-old at the time. She was not allowed to study as education was restricted and caste divides were strong, and the Brahmins forbade it due to her caste and gender. Therefore Jyotirao took it upon himself to educate his wife after which they both opened India’s first school for girls in Maharwada, Pune. Even though the society demoralised the couple for going against their rules and not giving up to their restrictions, they managed to push through and throughout their lifetime Savitribai and Jyotirao opened 18 schools.
During the event, Janaki Srinivasana, a social activist and political science lecturer at Panjab University, shed light on Savitribai’s work and its relevance in today’s times, even after so many years. She emphasised on how female reformers are not given as much importance as male reformers, even though they too played an important role in society and have been working in the background for decades now. Srinivasana said that the time had come to understand the role of female voices.
Dwelling on Savitribai’s poetry, she said her poems are a reflection of our society in general and on social issues in particular. Savitribai’s work focused on women education and employment, and indicative of Phule’s idea that a woman’s life should not be governed by marriage. “The issues she raised then remain pertinent even today,’’ said Janaki.
Apart from working on gender discrimination, Savitribai also worked for the welfare of lower caste groups, widows, especially Brahmin widows, since they were severely ill-treated in the society. She also waged a war on female infanticide, an issue that still haunts our country.
Srinivasana explained Savitribai’s idea of education which was not just about spreading bookish knowledge. “Savitribai suggested that real knowledge is the ability to question and the ability to have critical reasoning, We still have not been able to imbibe critical thinking in our education,” said Srinivasana
She also talked about the issues faced by reformers, including the loss of family and support system. ‘’The society discourages them and they often lose their social status. Many hurdles come in their way, but all great leaders overcome these and come out victorious.”
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