Mumbai, March 10: The journey led by a lady who strived hard to signify the women’s education and their liberal importance in a patriarchal society were carved in the history forever. A pioneer that represents the dignity of women with principles of humanity, equality and justice was none other than – Savitribai Phule.To carry forward the ideologies and pay tribute to the legendary Savitribai Phule, Jaya Sharma and the 30 other organisers for Chalo Nagpur, a women’s march against casteism and religious patriarchy, hope it would become an opportunity for women to unite in their demand for a secular, democratic state, free from discrimination, humiliation and violence.
Though we live in the 21st century, India still has such corners where women are not treated as equal as men. They are not given the education, their dignity which they deserve. Savitribai Phule was an example to demolish such corners which she began way early along with her husband Jyotirao Phule who educated her and made her realise the importance of education for everyone. They both dedicated their life to spreading education and knowledge. Savitribai Phule chose the battlefield that aimed to inspire every woman despite race, caste, color, creed they belong to. Savitribai Phule became the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India. Savitribai Phule and Jyotirao Phule were engaged in a passionate struggle to build a movement for equality between men and women and a fight against the caste system. They started the first school in the country for girls, encouraged a ‘home for the prevention of infanticide’ in their own house, to ensure the safety of pregnant and exploited widows. They were against child marriage and supported widow remarriages. They had no children of their own but adopted a child of a Brahmin widow, Kashibai, educating him and arranging an inter-caste marriage for him. They also built a revolutionary social education movement for shudra and atishudra women of the country, started a school for the Mahars and the Mangs.
They insisted that “education should give one the ability to choose between right and wrong and between truth and untruth in life.” Their success is evident from the fact that young girls loved to study under their guidance, so much so that their parents would complain of the girls’ dedication to studies.
Laxman Karadi Jaaya from Mumbai said, “I have not seen another woman as kind and loving as Savitribai. She gave us more love than even a mother could.” Another student Mahadu Sahadu Waghole wrote, “Savitribai was very generous, and her heart was full of kindness. She would be very compassionate to the poor and the needy. She would constantly give the gift of food; she would offer everyone meals. If she saw tattered clothes on the body of poor women, she would give them saris from her own house. Due to this, their expenses rose. Tatya aka Jyotirao would sometimes say to her, ‘One should not spend so much.’ To this, she would smile and ask ‘What do we have to take with us when we die?’
In the year 1897 which was struck with the menace of plague. People were dying in hundreds daily in Pune. Savitribai along with Yeshwant set up a hospital to take care of the patients. She would herself pick up sick people and bring them to the hospital and treat them. Even though she knew that the disease was contagious, she continued to serve them till the plague took her own life. As soon as she came to know that the son of Pandurang Babaji Gaekwad in the Mahar settlement outside the village of Mundhwa was afflicted with plague, she went there and rushed back to the hospital with the sick child on her back. She caught the disease in this process and at 9 pm on March 10, 1897, she passed away.10
10th March 1897, the example was set in the history for all of us as inspiration and knowledge is yet to get implemented in our real lives. We need to look up at the dedication level set by Savitribai Phule towards the welfare of the society what may come. Her struggle against patriarchy, caste system, discrimination, eradicating the untouchability got a big blow and the flame is still burning. Let us stand for these principles. It’s a tribute on this day to salute her willpower and dedication for the betterment of the society.