Literate or not, rural women spread the education message

March 28th, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(Feature)
By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) They may be barely literate but for the women at the forefront of this people’s movement the focus is clear - education. For the nearly 500,000 members of the National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE), it’s a matter of pride that 32 of their 48 leaders in different parts of the country are women.

Hailing from rural backgrounds and belonging to minority communities, they understand the ground realities of their lives and have a deep commitment towards the movement’s objective.

Take Tara Kranti of Jharkhand for instance.

Clad in a multicoloured sari and wearing bright red vermilion on the parting of her hair, Kranti was one of the over 500 members of NAFRE in the capital this week for the conclusion of their two-month ‘Jann Haq Yatra’ (Journey for the rights of people).

The yatra began Jan 23 in 15 states where the movement is functional, bringing to the forefront specific issues. So if West Bengal concentrated on the issue of special economic zones, Jammu and Kashmir demanded repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The representatives of each state came together in the capital, putting forth their demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“NAFRE works for a number of issues but our primary focus is education. And I strongly believe in this objective. Education, especially for women, is an absolute must. Without that, she doesn’t know her rights which the law of the land has endowed upon her,” Kranti told IANS.

Having studied till Class 10, Kranti said education was the only tool to curb the negative trend of female foeticide.

“So many girls are getting killed every day, sometimes even before they are born. People have to be made to understand that if their daughters are educated, then even they can seek employment like their sons and support them financially. They are therefore not a burden to the family,” she said.

Nasreen of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh added that education was important because it taught people to question.

“Education helps break barriers and teaches one to question, ask why this is happening and why that is not. There are so many laws which are aimed at protecting women, but because most of the rural women are illiterate, they are oblivious to these things,” Nasreen said.

But in their endeavour to spread the message of education, these women have understood there are various limitations as well.

“When we go from house to house in the villages and tell the people the importance of education, most of them and especially the women, give us bored uninterested looks. Their question is how education is going to benefit them immediately.

“That made us realise that we need to change our approach. So instead of giving them books right away, we started telling the women what their rights were if they got beaten up by their husbands or harassed for dowry. That got them interested and made them eager to know more,” said Lakhi Das of Jharkhand.

Agreed Bhaleria Guriya of Sambalpur, Orissa: “We had similar experiences in our villages. To encourage more girls to join school, we told the parents that if their girls are educated, they could seek employment like their sons and support them financially. That seems to have worked because a larger number of girls are now going to school in our village than before,” she said.

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