On 9th January Google honored Fatima Sheikh, social reformer and India’s first Muslim woman educationist, with a doodle on their homepage on her 191st birth anniversary. With caste discrimination and women, education continues to be at the center of discussion in the country, one of the earliest reformers of the country has battled all her life with these animosities to envision a liberal and inclusive India.
Fatima Sheikh was a colleague of Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule who have worked closely with the reformer in challenging persistent social issues like caste discrimination, sati, women empowerment, widow remarriage, intercaste marriage, and education.
In pre-independent India, education for lower castes and Muslim women was forbidden but Fatima fought these social isolations by co-founding an indigenous library along with the Phule couples in 1848 – that was one of the first all-girl schools in India.
The trio was aware of the caste and gender discrimination that was prevailing in the country at that time and even today, so they started door-to-door campaigns to convince people from the backward classes and Muslim communities to come and get educated at the indigenous library to get rid of the caste and gender biases.
Fatima’s endeavor along with Phule’s to educate people from downtrodden communities, who were denied an education by society, was historically known as Satyashodhak Samaj Movement or Truth Seeker’s Society.
In 2014, the Indian government has highlighted Fatima Sheikh’s contribution to the education of oppressed Dalits and Muslim women in Urdu textbooks.