A quiet social revolution

Suparna Chattarji (Ex-Principal, Ankur)

November, 2023

The girls of Grades IX-XII assembled in the large space that was previously used as the self-study room for girls in Ankur hostel.  Almost all of them knew me, therefore we started to talk without an introduction.  I had a mission, however.  I wanted to know how they felt in Ankur and in school, and how life has been in general ever since we met in January.  As we were warming up I noticed that almost all of them looked quite calm and self-assured.  They were making good eye contacts with me and it felt like they have a sense of purpose.

Our discussion veered into a number of topics such as the newly acquired space in Samhita building where each grade has been given nice and well-lit rooms for study.  The stress of being in one room with other grades during tutorials has completely disappeared. They were quite thrilled about that.

I slowly started to ask questions about their families and relatives.  I probed little deeper with questions such as “Now that you have been away from your family for quite a few years, do you see a difference in their thought process and yours?” Promptly a few hands went up and I gestured towards a girl to talk about it.  What she said was quite astounding.  She said that when she visits her village during vacations she mostly observes and listens.  She finds it very difficult to relate to how the villagers think and how she thinks now.  For example, she sees that her community discriminates between boys and girls.  When she brings up this issue, her mother and aunts ask her to keep quiet about it as it is not acceptable to the community for young women to speak up. But she has learnt in her school that not speaking up is wrong and therefore she has chosen to talk about it.  With some persuasion and arguments, almost all women in her village now agree that they have to support the young women and empower them so that all young people of both genders are treated equally.

Similarly, another girl who has learnt in her social study class that fragmentation of land leads to less productivity in agriculture has persuaded her family, especially the males, to keep the land undivided so that they can collectively farm the land and keep the ancestral property intact and benefit from it.

These are powerful stories of social change.  When many of these girls will speak to their families and help change the mindset of their communities we will see a social revolution in India.  As a proud Indian, I am eagerly waiting for such a day.