Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid homage to Savitribai Phule on her birth anniversary.

 

Who Is Savitribai Phule?

  • A pioneer who challenged oppressive social norms in her quest for women’s education, equality and justice, Savitribai Phule is formally recognised as India’s first woman teacher.
  • A Dalit woman from the Mali community, Savitribai was born on January 3, 1831, at Naigaon in Satara District.
  • In 1840, at the tender age of 9, she was married to Jyotirao (also known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule one of the leading social reformers and anti-caste activists of India) is said to have educated her at home and later on admitted her to a teacher’s training institution in Pune.

 

Establishment Of India’s First Girls’ School

At a time when education was limited mostly to the upper-class, affluent men, and women were not deemed eligible for going to school, the Phules established a girls’ school in Bhidewada, Pune, in 1848. This was the first girls’ school in India.

 

Phule’s role as a social reformer

  • In 1852, she established a women’s rights advocacy organisation, Mahila Seva Mandal.
  • In 1860, the Phule’s organised a barber’s strike against shaving the hair of widowed women.
  • Along with Jyotirao, Savitribai started the Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (‘Home for the Prevention of Infanticide’) for pregnant widows facing discrimination.
  • Savitribai Phule also advocated inter-caste marriages, widow remarriage, and eradication of child marriage, sati and dowry systems, among other social issues.
  • In 1873, the Phules set up the Satyashodhak Samaj (‘Truth-seekers’ society’), a platform open to all, irrespective of their caste, religion or class hierarchies, with the sole aim of bringing social equity.

 

Literary works

  • Savitribai Phule published her first collection of poems, called Kavya Phule (‘Poetry’s Blossoms’), at the age of 23 in 1854.
  • She published Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (‘The Ocean of Pure Gems’), in 1892.