Savitribhai phule born on 3 January 1831 as a social reformer and first lady pioneer in women education. Her husband also contributed during the British rule for the improvements of women rights in the country.
Phule along with her husband founded the first women’s school at Bhide Wada in pune in 1848.
The child bride who stood up against discrimination:-
- Born into a family of farmers in Naigaon, Maharashtra, she was married to 12-year-old Jyotirao Phule at the age of nine.
- The practice of child marriage was prevalent in the 19th century and since the mortality rate was high at the time, many young girls often became widows even before attaining puberty.
- Such widows used to shave their heads, wear a simple red sari and live a life of austerity.
- It was Savitribhai who decided to stand up against this practice and organized a strike against the barbers in order to persuade them to stop shaving the heads of the widow.
- She noticed the plight of women who after falling prey to sexual exploitation, and becoming pregnant, either committed suicide or killed the new-born due to fear of banishment by the society.
- To cater to such women she opened a care centre for pregnant rape victims and helped deliver their children.
- The care centre was called “Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha” (Infanticide prohibition house)
Challenging the casteist patriarchy:-
- Phule also worked to abolish discrimination and unfair treatment of people based on caste and gender.
- She found the treatment of the untouchables problematic and opened a well in her house in 1868 so that, people who were refused drinking water by the upper caste can use it.
- She died while taking care of the patients suffering during the worldwide Third Pandemic of the bubonic (bacterial infection) plague.
A woman who kept the foundation for women education in India. She was the first woman who started the first ever school in India exclusively for girls at a time when nobody could dare to even think about educating a girl.
She was taught by him and sent for training in teaching at Mitchell’s school in Pune where she performed very well and remained successful. Then she opened a first ever school for girls in Pune in January 1848 with admission of nine girls of different castes on the opening day and became the first woman teacher of India. She opened two more schools for girls with full support of her husband and in 1851, there were about 150 girls studying in these schools. She even inspired an eleven year old girl ‘Mukta’ of her school to write an essay on Dalit emancipation which is considered as the cornerstone of Dalit literature. She thought that only the education could bring some improvement in their life. She opened another school for Dalit’s in her village Naigaon in 1852.
They took initiative to give education to downtrodden, thinking that education is necessary for the restoration of social and cultural values. Savitribhai 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. She went on to organise a successful barbers strike in Mumbai and Pune against the prevailing practice of shaving of widows’ heads. She also played a vital role in the Satya Shodhak Samaj movement started by his Mahatma Jotiba Phule.
During the 1876 to 1898 famines, Savitribhai Phule worked courageously with her husband and suggested many new ways to overcome the difficult time. They started distributing free food at many locations. She died while she was nursing a plague- affected child as she got infected while serving the affected people.