Google is today celebrating educator and feminist icon Fatima Sheikh, who is widely considered to be India’s first Muslim woman teacher, with a doodle. Sheikh, alongside fellow pioneers and social reformers Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, co-founded the Indigenous Library in 1848, one of India’s first schools for girls.
Fatima Sheikh was born on this day in 1831 in Pune. She lived with her brother Usman, and the siblings opened their home to the Phule’s after the couple was evicted for attempting to educate people in lower castes.
The Indigenous Library opened under the Sheikhs’ roof. Here, Savitribai Phule and Fatima Sheikh taught communities of marginalized Dalit and Muslim women and children who were denied education based on class, religion, or gender.
At the library, Sheikh taught communities of marginalised Dalit and Muslim women and children who were denied entry to conventional schools based on caste, creed, religion and gender. The combined efforts were recognised as Satyashodhak Samaj (Truthseekers’ Society) movement.
“As a lifelong champion of this movement for equality, Sheikh went door-to-door to invite the downtrodden in her community to learn at the Indigenous Library and escape the rigidity of the Indian caste system.
She met great resistance from the dominant classes who attempted to humiliate those involved in the Satyashodhak movement, but Sheikh and her allies persisted,” Google said in a statement, explaining today’s doodle.
Her life stands as a testament to social reforms that were championed by Indian women in the pre-independence time, despite social criticism. As per Google’s Blogspot, Sheikh’s story had been “historically overlooked” until 2014 when the Indian government highlighted her achievements in Urdu test books alongside other trailblazing Indian educators.
Her work is also of the greatest significance for the oppressed Dalits and Muslims, as she was among the firsts to launch the joint struggle to make their voices heard.
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