Activities

Savitribai Phule


(3rd January Woman's day of India)

There is no better way to pay tribute to the supreme name, Savitribai Phule, other than declaring her birthday as woman’s day of India. India will be observed the 180th birth anniversary of one such feminist on Jan 3 — Savitribai Phule. She not only fought for the right to education, but for the right to dignity for widows, unwed mothers, and women with unwanted pregnancies. In the nineteenth century, her work was revolutionary.

Savitribhai Phule, the supreme lady who fought against the totalitarianism of caste and other social evils in India. Savitiribai Phule, who dared to pursue the Nobel profession of 'teaching' in the 'Dark Age' and became first lady teacher in India. This is the supreme name who started first the school for females in India.

One of the supreme name who fought against the unpardonable boundaries imposed on the women society of India. Savitribai Phule, the lady who started first ever women’s school. Savitribai Phule, struggled and suffered with her revolutionary husband in an equal

measure, but remains obscured due to casteist and sexist negligence. Apart from her identity as Jotirao Phule’s wife, she is little known even in academia. Modern India’s first female teacher, a radical exponent of mass and female education, a champion of women’s liberation, a pioneer of engaged poetry, a courageous mass leader who took on the forces of caste and patriarchy certainly had her independent identity and contribution.

It is indeed a measure of the ruthlessness of elite-controlled knowledge-production that a figure as important as Savitribai Phule fails to find any mention in the history of modern India. Her life and struggle deserves to be appreciated by a wider spectrum, and made known to non-Marathi people as well as non Indians and to the masses worldwide.

Savitribai Phule was the mother of modern poetry stressing the necessity of English and Education through her poems. Savitribai Phule was the first woman whose poems got noticed in the British Empire.

Mahatma Jotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule were the first among the people who declared war against the Casteism and Brahminic-Casteist culture. The Maharashtrian pioneering couple led mass movements of uniting the oppressed class es against the Brahminic values and thinking. Savitribai Phule worked as an equal partner in the mission of uplifting the poor and oppressed people. Though, she was formerly uneducated, she was encouraged, motivated by Mahatma Jotiba Phule to study. Later on she became the first lady teacher. Life of Savitribai Phule as a teacher in the school at the time when orthodox people used to look down on others  wasn’t easy and many a they times used to pelt stones and throw dung on her. The young couple faced severe opposition from almost all sections. Savitribai was subject to intense harassment everyday as she walked to the school. Stones, mud and dirt were flung at her as she passed. But Savitribai Phule faced everything peacefully and with courageously.

At the time when even a shadow of untouchables were considered impure, when the people were unwilling to offer water to thirsty untouchables, Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Jotiba Phule opened the well in their house for the use of by untouchables.

Savitribia Phule’s instinctitively had pioneering and innovative thinking where she regarded education as being necessary for the restoration of social and cultural values. Savitribai Phule started ‘Mahila Seva Mandal’ in 1852, which worked for raising women’s consciousness about their human rights, dignity of life and other social issues. Let’s pay tribute the supreme lady by recognizing her birthday to be the women’s Day of India.

Here is a brief story about Savitribai Phule:

Savitribai lived under the British Raj, and along with her husband Jyotirao Phule was one of the most prominent social reformists between 1847 and her death in 1897. As was the tradition in those days, Savitribai married Jyotirao when she was nine, and he thirteen. She has always had a fascination for words, and was also impressed by Jyotirao’s cousin Saguna, who was a nanny in the house of a British official and spoke English.

At 16, Savitribai joined Saguna and sparked revolution by setting up a school for young people of the lower castes and economic classes. This in those days was taboo. Stories suggest that orthodox Hindu men of the upper classes attacked Savitribai whenever she visited her school. Sometimes, they abused her verbally, and at other times they pelted her with cow dung, rotten vegetables and stones. But Savitribai’s determination never wavered. With her husband’s help, she set up five other schools, and by the age of 19 was an accomplished teacher herself.

Savitribhai led the battle for women’s liberation along several other fronts. As a young wife, she saw that several women her own age were already widowed. Some of them were forced to sacrifice their lives at their husband’s pyre (Sati), and others were condemned to a life of seclusion. Savitribai joined social reformists of her time and worked to efface the stigma against these women, and to incorporate them into society. With her husband, she ran a home for pregnant widows and orphaned children, and took personal care of the destitute women who took refuge in that home.

She soon discovered that women are often stigmatized for unwanted pregnancies. She ran a delivery home for such women, and took care of their abandoned children. Her husband even let one child take on his name, an act that earned him criticism.

Savitribai was a soldier of reform, and she died taking care of women affected by an epidemic of plague. She was one of the only women of the time whose death was reported in a newspaper.

Young Indian women of today owe a debt of gratitude to women like Savitribai who braved stigma. She voluntarily lived on the fringes of her society – an outcast in some ways, because of what she believed in. Yet, it never deterred her from her goal – the advancement of women through education. She was also one of the first women to work hard against misogyny during the period of the British Raj.

Coming back to today, education still remains elusive to young girls around the world. Across Asia, child labour and child marriage rob children of their right to complete basic school education. Without education, these young girls are unable to read and access information about their own bodies and health, let alone about their rights and choices.

While there are several attempts at providing illiterate women information in simplified forms, there is nothing like sending a girl to school and helping her develop the skills to think and form opinions of her own. What we need is for women to come together as a fitting tribute to the Savitribais of yesteryears, and support education among women. After all, there is only one way to combat misogyny and stigma – education. But to achieve that we first need to protest the stigma against educating young girls.

 

Justifications:

There is no women's day of India; the one celebrated on 8th March is a international women’s day, which started in Germany, and has no significance to Indian society.

There is already a teacher’s day celebrated in India for generations & it is called Guru Purnima, usually in October. I feel that it would be hard to convince millions of people to change their teacher’s day celebration to 3rd January and forget the guru purnima from now on. By pushing 3rd January to be classed as teacher’s day would certainly make it a controversial issue and only a minority would be supportive. There would certainly be lots of opposition for 3rd January to be teacher’s day.

Savitribai Phule was a teacher of women and was never a teacher of males. If we want to pay tribute to her peacefully without creating any bitterness about this cause then we should all get together and work for her birthday to be declared as the Women's day of India.

Why would we need to enter in to controversy to pay tribute to the supreme lady, when we can achieve women's day to be most appropriate way to pay the tribute, the lady has been a noble source of inspiration for all irrespective of the boundaries of gender. There seem to be growing support from all classes of people for the women’s day cause. The need of today is to pave the ways of our own for the service of an individual, society, nation and ultimately humanity as Savitri Bai Phule had done. Any action in such a direction can be the real tribute. That is why I believe in actions rather than the politics that has become a fashion these days.

Some groups suggest 10th March should be celebrated women’s day India or Dalit women’s day. The 10th March was the dark day when we lost the great lady. It would be unjustified to have celebration of her death as an anniversary. There is no justification for a separate Dalit Women’s day. There is no justification for Savitribai Phule’s death anniversary to be declared as Dalit women’s day. Her death anniversary is a sad day when the nation had lost the noble lady forever. We should emphasise or mark  2 minutes silence to be observed in her memory on 10th March rather than celebrating the day in  non-purposeful way, Dalit Women’s day or a women’s day.

Some groups suggest 25th December should be Mahila Mukti din, because Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had burnt Manusmriti on this day. This has no significance to Savitribai Phule. Burning Manusmriti was not only for Mahila Mukti but Mukti of many social evils hidden in Manusmiti. Savitribai Phule was the first lady, who without openly challenging rules of Manusmriti, she disregarded the Manusmiriti.

Celebrating women’s day is the most appropriate way to pay tribute to Savitribai Phule. Please join us and help the cause for 3rd January to be declared as woman’s day of India. India's spirit of Unity got us independence and the same is needed for the continuous growth and welfare of the nation. We need you all to support the cause. "United we stand; Divided we fall."