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Exclusive: How is One Woman Army changing the notions of Education in society?

Although our Indian education is a well renowned and the best-considered system of education in the world, however, we lack in the proper deliverance of education

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Sumeet Mittal awarded with 'Make in India' award for its contribution in social development

March 08, 2017: ‘When you educate a woman, you educate the society’ – a famous saying from the earlier times proved to be satiated when a woman from Rajasthan determined to change the notion of education in the society. Sumeeti Mittal is the founder of Pratham Sikhsha, a charitable organization in Jaipur, Rajasthan laid the initiative to promote the core of primary education for the impoverished section of society.

The beginning of Pratham Sikhsha

Sumeeti with her students in school

While touring across the world, Sumeeti realized that there is a fine line between Indians and western countries which alienate us from them. She learned that the point of difference was lying in the primary education of underprivileged section of society. It was then she discerned that there was a dire need for primary education in India.

“Ever since my childhood, I wanted to help people in a way that cultivates a sense of Independence in them. I have been very passionate about my own education as well, hence I wanted to impart education in every way possible – because I believe that with education you can achieve anything in life.”, told Sumeeti Mittal to Newsgram.

‘Pratham Sikhsha’ is a Hindi word meaning – ‘First Education’. It was started in 2005, with the aim of imparting education to deprived children who has no access to basic education and empower women to improve their lives and earn a respectable job for themselves.

Redefinition of Education by Sumeeti Mittal

Although our Indian education is a well renowned and the best-considered system of education in the world, however, we lack in the proper deliverance of education. With the lack of qualitative education and callousness of teachers as well as parents, one realizes too late that the child can not indeed read or write well.

“We are blindly following western education, little do we realize that there is more to be done to meet the quality standards of western countries. There is no concern over the child’s performance in class, and with the rules like – No failing of students has impaired the education scene furthermore. Ultimately it is the teacher who is responsible for the student’s failure. Teachers will never be found at the backfoot if such system persists.” told Sumeeti on the education system of India.

She also emphasized the importance of ‘Moral Education in schools. Learning should be adorned with discipline and values to inculcate a moral behavior in a child.

The Founder of Pratham Sikhsha also stressed the role of a woman in the society. She quoted by saying “Females have to be become powerful and realize their inner strength.”. Women of the backward class no longer have to stick to conventional methods of earning, they can easily find a reputable job with help of Pratham Sikhsha. Her future objective is to align education with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission Skilled India, and for the same purpose, she has introduced some courses in her organization.

Here’s how Pratham Sikhsha is distinctive from others in the field of education:

  • Practical learning in Plumbing, electrician, stitching and other related courses
  • Employing women from slum as teachers to set a live example and propel other women to earn a respectable earning
  • Every Saturday of the month sessions are conducted for child’s female relative to counsel and educate the basic health care routine
  • The student is advised to repeat the class if he or she fails to grasp the core of learning in the respective grade
  • Moral education introduced in schools with a better approach, students enact plays on these moral values
  • Imparts nursing education to women who have completed their 12th and thus contracting them in government hospitals

Initiatives like Pratham Sikhsha are a boon for the society. Sumeeti faced resistance from her surroundings when she was in the thinking phase of the initiative. Despite the unpropitious situation, she was able to lay the foundation of her charity trust. Sumeeti believes that one can achieve anything with the extract of faith within oneself.

Visit here to know more about Pratham Shiksha

Reported by Naina Mishra of Newsgram, Twitter @Nainamishr94

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‘Daughter’s Pride Festival’: Celebrating India’s Daughters

It will need a lot of perseverance to achieve women's empowerment, says Jaglan, but the hope is that the names of girls being displayed outside doors will herald a brighter future for girls.

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India, Names
There is excitement in Patuka village in Haryana state as a man heads out to put nameplates with daughters' names on several homes. VOA

There is a sense of excitement in India’s Patuka village — adults and children look curiously as signs with the names of daughters are hammered outside several homes. It is a novelty in a village where patriarchal mindsets have long held sway.

As Mubin Sumssu poses proudly with his family after the name of his 14-year-old daughter is posted outside his gate, he envisions a new future for her. “I hope she studies well, progresses in life, does a good job and makes a name for herself.”

This is not the life that girls can traditionally aspire to in this Muslim-dominated village, which lies in one of the country’s most backward districts in the northern Haryana state. Many girls do not complete school and their lives revolve around household chores and looking after siblings from an early age. Most are married off young.

The nameplate campaign, called “Daughter’s Pride Festival,” hopes to make a difference by persuading village families to treat girls on par with boys. The aim: Names of girls plastered outside doors will carry the winds of change inside homes that continue to be ruled firmly by men.

The head of the village council is a 23-year-old woman, Anjum Aara — laws mandating female participation in local bodies have brought women like her to prominence. More educated than most girls in the village, Aara has been emphasizing the importance of educating girls since she came to Patuka after her marriage.

She is optimistic that the latest campaign will raise consciousness about the need to empower women. “It will make people understand that the daughter is the identity of the family,” Aara said. “They will be inspired to educate girls. Those with negative thinking about this will become more positive.”

Patriarchal mindsets

It is not an easy goal in places where women traditionally never had a voice. One village woman approached by a reporter for her reaction to the campaign refused to speak without her husband’s permission. The girls whose names have appeared outside homes are shy and appear to have limited understanding about its significance.

India, Names
Some families in Patuka village in Haryana state are posting nameplates of their daughters as part of a campaign that aims to change patriarchal attitudes and empower women. VOA

Nonetheless, the man spearheading the campaign, Sunil Jaglan, is optimistic that such steps will slowly usher in social transformation. The nameplate campaign is part of a model he followed in his village, Bibipur, when he was its head. It has now been adopted by the government in scores of villages.

Jaglan says it is not easy to persuade men to put their daughters’ names outside homes in villages with deeply entrenched customs.

He points out that virtually no women get a share of parental property despite laws granting them equal rights. Terming the campaign a “mind-strike,” Jaglan says that “this is a symbol to make people understand that putting the man’s name is not enough. The woman also lives there. She also has an equal stake in the home, in the property, in the village.”

The initiative cuts across religious communities in a country where patriarchal mindsets prevail among both the majority Hindu community and minority Muslims.

India, Names
Many families in Alipur village in Haryana state are now educating young girls, and say they will treat them on par with boys. VOA

About 20 kilometers down a road that cuts through fields blooming with the golden mustard crop, 25 out of 700 homes in another village boast of nameplates with their daughters’ names. Alipur is more prosperous, but traditional mindsets rule here as well — women automatically cover their heads when they see men.

Skewed gender ratio

In this Hindu-dominated village, the campaign is addressing another challenge: a skewed gender ratio. In Alipur, as in thousands of other villages, the number of girls dwindled in recent decades due to illegal sex-selective abortions. The practice, known as female foeticide, has flourished in a society that traditionally prefers boys.

Nobody knows that better than Mahesh Jangra, whose home flashes the name of his 10-year-old daughter, Dipti. Growing up in Alipur, he saw many more boys than girls in his village. But he says the imbalance has brought an awakening.

“Now people realize that who will the boys marry if there are no girls?” Jangra said. “First everyone gave priority to sons, now we want to treat sons and daughters equally and put the daughter’s name ahead.”

That is why he willingly put his daughter’s name outside his door, instead of that of his 15-year-old son.

India, Names
Many women in Alipur village in Haryana state keep their head covered, as tradition demands. VOA

So far it is the more affluent families like that of Jangra that have opted to post their daughters’ names. But as they are usually the trendsetters in the village, the hope is that others will follow suit.

Komal Kalonia, a 19-year-old college student, is one of the few girls who has received a good education. She says her family did not need any persuasion to put her name outside. Kalonia feels the nameplate will send a message.

“When a passerby sees this, it will encourage them to do the same and take their thinking a step ahead,” she said.

As such campaigns make a mark, the state’s gender ratio has improved from 834 girls for 1,000 boys, according to the 2011 census, to 914 last year.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

It will need a lot of perseverance to achieve women’s empowerment, says Jaglan, but the hope is that the names of girls being displayed outside doors will herald a brighter future for girls.

“I cannot say everybody’s mindset has changed. But if families agree happily, then the message we are giving through these nameplates will ultimately percolate down.” (VOA)