A Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) teacher by profession and a social worker and writer by passion, 48-year-old Rakhi Raskar has written her seventh book, Dnyanai-Savitribai Phule.
The 92-page illustrated book for children narrates the story of the first woman teacher in modern India who played a pivotal role in improving women’s rights in the country. The book was launched on the 190th birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule by State Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad on January 3.
“Savitribai Phule devoted her life to education and had endured several challenges in the 18th century. She braved through all obstacles to improve women’s right to education. I have been a municipal corporation teacher for the last 28 years and I often come across female students who get married early or are forced to leave school due to lack of financial support. Taking inspiration from the life Savitribai led, I try to inculcate her teachings in the young girls’ lives,” said Raskar.
She added that while researching Savitribai Phule and her work, she collected all the necessary data and information within six months. “I went through several books written on her as well as government documents I could get my hands on. I also came across original black and white photographs of Savitribai that have been included in the book. Savitribai was also a prolific poet and I have tried to include some of her work in the book,” she said.
Stressing on the need to recognise national heroes, especially overlooked women, Raskar said it became essential for her to write specifically for children. “Children are losing the habit to read and are also oblivious to our own country’s heroes. This is why I had the book illustrated because a picture is worth a thousand words. I have also included a questionnaire that will provide an incentive for the children to read,” she said.
While the book is currently in Marathi, it will also be translated into English, Hindi and Urdu, said Raskar. She also said she is planning to write similar books on Rajmata Jijau, mother to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Ramabai Bhimrao Ambedkar. “History texts more often than not never mention the service of these remarkable women. It is important for girls to read about these women as not only will they get inspired, but will have the conviction to work towards it,” said Raskar.
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