January 3 marks the birth anniversary of one of the pioneers of women's education and the crusader of gender justice in India 'Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule'. Savitribai was born on January 3, 1831, in a village called Naigaon in the Satara district of Maharashtra.
She is notably known as the first female teacher in India.The rise of a lady messiah (saviour) comes to forefront at a time when India was practicing child marriage and Sati (widow sacrifices herself by sitting a top her deceased husband's funeral pyre) widely in social context.
For the upliftment of women in India Savitribai started the first ever school for girls in the country in1848 at Bhide Wada in Pune. She never gave up her fight against caste evil and gender discrimination. The first school was founded with the support of her husband Jyothi Rao Phule, a prominent social reformer. The day in history marked as the 190th birth anniversary of Phule along with Maharashtra is considering the day as Balika Din.
Leading a battle against strong-rooted existing patriarchal norms was not that much easy in 19th century especially under British rule. Savitribai Phule shaped another India where a woman can educate herself for her own social, economic upliftment. Being a social reformer, feminist, teacher she brought in several new contributions to India's educational epitome. The significant role played by Savitri in women empowerment is always notable. Savitri along with her supporting pillar husband Jyothi Rao Phule spreads the awareness of importance of women's education and their upliftment status. Savitri tied knot with Jyothi Rao Phule at the age of 9 when the superstition of child marriage widely followed in India.
In 1851 she became the teacher of around 150 students and she had set up three schools. People used to throw muds and dirt on Savitribai when she went to teach.Phule and Jyothi Rao had set up schools for Dalits and other lower caste people by offering them stipends. Savitri was one of the first advocates of women's right in the country as she always wanted to highlight the problems of child marriage and Sati. At her residence, shehad opened a well for 'untouchables' as an act against the caste system.Phule set up a 'MahilaSeva Mandal' where women would gather and she would raise awareness about women's rights. And also started a care centre for pregnant rape victims called 'Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha'.
Apart from advocating women's right Savitribhai has also fought for Plague victims. She opened up a clinic with her adopted son Yashwant Phule, in 1897 to help patients who got infected with the bubonic plague. As a radical female writer, she always criticizes and questions Brahmanical patriarchy and hegemonical power of upper caste. Her notable role to bring up gender equality in India during the 19th century is highly appreciable.
There was strict restrictions from family members itself for the upliftment activities of Phule couple.Savitribai and Jyoti Rao Phule were asked to leave the ancestral house as her father-in-law was upset with the couple's revolutionary activities. Her important works include Kavya Phule, which was published in 1854 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1892. She also wrote a poem entitled 'Go, Get Education' which encouraged people to free themselves from oppression by educating themselves.
Some of her notable quotes
"We become animal without wisdom, Sit idle no more, Go get education, End misery of the oppressed and forsaken".
"Knowledge always demands increase.it is like fire which must first be kindled by some external agents but will afterwards always propagates itself"
"You have started the benevolent and welfare work for the poor and the needy. I also want to carry my share of the responsibility. I assure you I will always help you. I wish the godly work will be helped by more people".
"The lack of learning is nothing but gross bestiality. It is through the acquisition of knowledge that (he) loses his lower status and achieves the higher one".
"We shall overcome and success will be ours in the future. The future belongs to us".
Politicians, social justice activists, student community pays tribute to Savitribai Phule on her 190th birth anniversary on Sunday.
See some of the tweets commemorating Savitribai's contributions