Even as it is only now that national attention has finally caught on to the link between women education and controlling female foeticide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao," programme, in two Haryana villages at least, this mission was accomplished a decade ago with all residents, including women, being literate.
Meet Jamuna Devi (49), a resident of Saharwa in Hisar, and social activist Bhim Singh Mundhi, who have been the architects of spreading functional literacy in Hisar district and beyond.
These two, along with teams, and in collaboration with the government took forward Akshar Gyan ---- a programme to ensure functional literacy for illiterate people in the age group of 15 years and beyond in a time-bound manner.
In 1992, Mundhi was roped in by the government and he identified Jamuna as someone who could be his key aide in spreading the programme.
Jamuna, loving referred to as Tai or Chachi, was only 17 when her husband passed away.
Jamuna had a passion to learn and teach and the first thing she did was join the Akshar Gyan classes herself in the evening.
"I used to earn Rs 12 per day at that time from farming and tailoring. Yet found time to study," Jamuna said, adding that soon she was literate enough to teach and started taking classes of relatives and later of students coming to her to learn tailoring.
In hourly classes, she taught her students to learn and soon her students starting measuring cloth after reading the tape than using another piece of cloth as a standard.
As the practical skills she taught brought her recognition, the number of students in class started to swell.
"I only taught them about the alphabets and numbers, before teaching them tailoring and the students learnt the lessons very quickly.
After the programme's runway success in Saharwa , the district administration decided to rope in Jamuna and Mundhi to teach residents at Rupana village, 12 km from Tai's village. To accomplish this task, 22 girls in the age group of 17-19 were trained under Tai. These girls travelled to the village in the evening. However, there was the challenge of ensuring safety of these young girls.
"Imagine, in state where most people do not even let their women out after dark, we undertook the task of ferrying 22 girls back and forth 12-km," said Mundhi, adding that it was only after Jamuna took responsibility that the families agreed. In a matter of months, all residents of Rupana village were functionally literate.
"We now understand the importance of educating our girls as giving her knowledge empowers an entire generation. Previously for simple tasks like reading a bus sign board, we were dependent on others. Now, we can read important signs and manage our home budget," said Bhateri (55), wife of Beer Singh, people who are now functionally literate.
"We are truly grateful to Tai and to people associated with the mission. Instead of thumb impression, I now sign," said another beneficiary Kamala.
New role for Tai
Since 2005, Jamuna Tai has been working with the government in the health sector as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker and is leading a five-member team that deals with health issues and problems of pregnant women. From ensuring that all deliveries in her area take place at hospitals to imparting knowledge on guidelines to be followed during pregnancy, she is once again the ultimate self-less educator.
We now understand the importance of educating our girls as giving them knowledge empowers an entire generation. Previously for simple tasks like reading a bus sign board, we were dependent on others.
Bhateri, resident of Rupana village