This article is part of a series called “Heroes And Sheroes Of Plural India” under #AnHourForCommunalHramony campaign to celebrate the Heroes and Sheroes who struggled to shape modern India in all its plurality. Today we celebrate Fatima Sheikh who along with Savitribai Phule pioneered girl’s education in India. All are welcome to contribute an hour of your day, in celebrating these Heroes and Sheroes of plural India
Most of us know the valuable contribution of Savitribai Phule to education of girls and other social work. But few know the woman who made the goal of Savitribai possible. She was Fatima Sheikh who not only taught in the school but also was the first Muslim woman to start school for girls in her house along with Savitribai.
Unfortunately, very little literature is available on the life and work if Fathima Sheikh. In 1848, Savitribai Phule opened a school for girls in Fatima’s house. Her brother agreed to start the school at his house. Usman Sheik, Fatima’s brother not only assisted his sister but also lent his support to the great cause. Savitribai used to carry extra dress while going to the school because the miscreants used to throw watercolours, pelt stones and throw cow dung at her as the upper – caste were averse to girls education. But, they not only continued, another woman Sagunabai joined them who, later carried the education movement further. ( Remembering Fatima Sheikh …who laid the foundation of dalit – Muslim unity, by Siddhant Mohan, two circles.net). Fatima had to endure the wrath of Hindus as well as Muslims. Despite threats, she used to go door- to-door to Muslim households and explain the importance of girls education. As several writings say, she was the first Muslim woman who started educating other girls and women in 19th century. Savitribai used to mention the services of Fatima seikh with affection and concern in her letters to Jyothirao Phule as both women complemented each other.
Though not much is known about her personal life, Fatima Sheikh brief profile was included in Urdu textbooks of Bal Bharati Maharashtra state Bureau. As usual, maratha community objected her inclusion with Syed Ahmed Khan and Zakir Hussain,etc. But her contribution to her motherland is unforgettable along with her contribution to Muslim women’s education.
The unity of dalits and Muslims has been emphasised by these two great women of Maharashtra who opened the doors for women empowerment.
Sheshu Babu is a writer from anywhere and everywhere and who wants to foster the whole world.