Savitribai Phule, The First Indian Feminist Who Fought For The Women’s Rights In India
Women have now become active participants in all walks of life. They are not confined to just being a homemaker but also influence the course of social change in the community. But today’s women have fought to reclaim their rights. There has been a transition in the society, but there were times when the status of women was low. The women were utterly degraded and subjugated. Infanticide, Sati, Child Marriage were some gruesome practices that were prevalent in the society which made the condition of women worse, but Savitribai Phule defied all these obstacles and identified the grievances of women in India and fought the injustice against them.
Savitri Bai Phule was born into the family of farmers in Naigaon, Maharashtra. Since the practice of child marriage was prevalent in the 19th century, she was forced into a wedding at the age of nine. Her husband who himself was a social activist taught her to read and write. After she was was literate, she participated in her husband’s in social reform movements of teaching young girls. She would teach them, and for this, she endured a lot of abuses.
It was that period when mortality rate was high; many young girls would end up becoming widows before attaining puberty. The little girls were forced to shave their heads and wear a simple red sari and live a life of austerity. It would pain Savitri to see women leading a life like this. She gathered all her courage in that patriarchal society and organised a strike against the barbers with the help of her husband to persuade them to stop shaving heads of the widows.
The condition of women worsened with time. Girls were exploited sexually and became targets of lust by men who would later abandon girls after they were pregnant; some girls would commit suicide while few would go for abortion due to fear of being ostracised from society. Moved by the plights of women, Savitri opened a care centre “Balhatya Pratibandhak Giha” for pregnant rape victims to help them deliver children.
She and her husband also adopted a son who was born to a widow. Savitri had challenged the questions of gender in isolation and also highlighted the issues of women.
Savitribai and her adopted son Yashwant also opened a clinic to treat those who were suffering from the bubonic plague ( a disease that includes fever, headaches and vomiting and swollen and painful nodes occur in the area where bacteria has entered). She served the patients wholeheartedly, and while caring for the patients, she also contracted the disease herself, and she died from it on 10 March 1897 while serving a patient.
Phule was one of the first generation modern Indian feminists.