For those following our advocacy work, Anubhuti-mentored Raahi Youth Network has been advocating for the Bhidewada school in Pune – first school for girls and children of all castes started by Savitribai Phule, Fatima Sheikh and Jyotiba Phule – to be given status of National Monument. They have written to the Chief Minister and Education Minister of Maharashtra and even met the latter, that is Shri Vinod Tawde. The school is yet to see any repairs or respect due to such a historical symbol of modern, educated, progressive, democratic India. It is slowly fading away into oblivion – both historically and literally.

KBC Youth Leaders speaking about Savitribai Phule and her importance

Raahi leader explaining the #SaveBhidewadaSchoolCampaign

A creative and unique advocacy strategy was thought of this year. On occassion of Savitribai Phule Jayanti on 3rd January, youth in Bamanwada organised a Warli painting workshop on the life and works of Savitribai Phule and her associates & students. These paintings would then be sent with a letter to the leading political parties and elected leaders of Maharashtra.

The workshop was conducted by artist Dhanashri Mane.
Not only did girls learn about warli art and it’s significance but also about Savitribai Phule’s work in education, women’s rights and against caste based discrimination, along with the contributions of other strong women like Fatima Sheikh and Mukta Salvi.

Girls were awestruck to learn about certain incidents – such as Mukta being Savitri’s first student wrote such a incisive essay on the prevailing caste system in Peshwa ruled Maharashtra that not only did she win a prize by the visiting British officer, but her article is still studied today by even doctorate students. Girls’ indignation was also high when they heard that the same Mukta had to come to school concealed and carried in a gunny sack by her father. Imagine the level of gender and caste discrimination in pre-independance Maharashtra!

Other events such as Fatima and Savitri studying together to be teachers, Jyotiba and Savitri reading progressive books, Savitri starting the first and perhaps only barbers’ strike in protest of forcefully shaving Brahmin widows’ heads were all depicted beautifully by the girls through warli.

Special thanks to Martha Farrell Foundation, PRIA and Pro-Sport Development for supporting this event. This activity was part of the Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) youth leaders conducting community-based events on gender & and other awareness.