If you are an Indian woman who can read, you owe it to Savitribai Phule. She is considered the mother of modern education for girls, and we are celebrating Savitribai Jayanti on January 3.
Do you know Savitribai Phule? She was a social reformer who is widely credited as the ‘Mother of modern education for girls’. Here’s her inspiring story that shows why Indian Women owes her for their education and freedom.
The 1800s weren’t an easy time to be a woman in India. With early marriage and a high mortality rate, many young girls were widows even before they reach adulthood. Unlike today, women had no voice back then. They were treated like cattle. But, the first woman who raised her critical voice to change the state of Indian women is Savitribai Phule.
Being married at the tender age of 9 to Jyotiba Phule, a 13-year-old boy, she was a victim of child marriage herself. But thanks to her destiny, Jyotiba Phule turned out to be a progressive man. Jyotiba not only taught Savitribai how to read and write but made her such an expert that Savitribai could write poems.
This not only made her one of the few women who were properly educated but also made her realize the power of teaching. Inspired by Jyotiba, she realized that if she wanted to change the lives of the other women in India, she would have to educate them.
It was then, she became India’s first woman teacher and opened the first school for girls in Bhide Wada in Pune. In her lifetime, she opened almost 18 schools for women. And, also became the first woman in India to become a headmistress.
Not only for women education, she also battled against child marriage, sati and caste discrimination. She did not leave any stone unturned in improving the conditions of women in India.
With the lack of hospitals and medical facilities back then, it was very common for people to die at a very young age. Because of this, child brides would often become widows. The condition of these child widows was extremely horrible. They were not only forced to shave their heads but also expected to remain celibate throughout life. Because of their vulnerable conditions, the child brides were often sexually exploited making them victims of unwanted pregnancies. And, being scared of the social shame, these child widows would commit suicide.
Savitribai went around and protested against the barbers so that the widows would not have their head shaved and hence protect them from being visibly vulnerable. She even opened a widow care center called Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha in her own house.
In the times, when zamindars didn’t let the untouchables draw water from their wells, Savitribai opened a well inside her house so that “untouchables” could come and draw water.
Though the orthodox society offered her only hate and abuse, she worked relentlessly to make it better. And in the end, she died serving the people.
When the epidemic of bubonic plague broke, she opened a shelter for the sick. As she treated the plague affected patients, she contracted the disease herself and died on 10 March 1897.
At IFORHER, we are in awe of this courageous woman. She not only showed the guts to raise her voice and fight for not just female rights, but also for those who were treated untouchables.
Our history books might not have done justice to her contribution, but we want to make sure we remember this forgotten hero as every girl in India owes to Savitribai’s bravery and courage!