Treated as guests in their own homes, girls in the Adivasi village of Hiwali are now staring at a template of change as their names become identity markers for all homes
Prakash Bhivsan sports a smile standing next to a nameplate outside his house with his daughter’s name on it. Residents of Hiwali have put up such nameplates as a step towards change. Pic/Satej Shinde
Around 80 km from Nashik city, in the Adivasi pada of Hiwali in Triambakeshwar Taluka, a feminist movement is brewing. Houses here are not identified by the names of the family patriarch, but a yellow-coloured tree forms the base to remove an age-old custom and displays the name of the girl child of the house prominently. And this is not just one house, but all of the total 30 houses in the village follow the same pattern one wall after another.
Hiwali, has become a sort-of model village. Known for its extraordinary school where students can recite multiplication tables up to 970, know various sections of the Constitution down to pat and can solve the Rubik’s cube in a jiffy, Hiwali is creating a path of transformation, be it in the education system or the family system. All thanks to the lone teacher of the only school in the village, Keshav Gavit, who is leading from the front and the 215 residents of the village, are on board. The villagers belong to the Kokna and Mahadev Koli tribes. None of them however have a permanent job; they rely on farming and temporary employment to make a living.
Gavit’s unique suggestion of having names of the daughters on nameplates outside all homes, was supported by NGO GIVE welfare foundation. Put to vote and the Gram Sabha unanimously passed the step playing along the bugle of change.
“After the school and the kids made a name for their talent, the villagers realised the power of progressive thinking. When they saw their girls faring brilliantly at school, they did not want them to only take care of the families or be married off young. They want girls to get educated and take up empowering professions like that of a teacher or civil servant,” explains Gavit who teaches at the Hiwali Zilla Parishad school. “The new nameplates are a symbol of the village’s desire for a progressive world,” he adds.
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Ashwini Bhivsan’s father Prakash Bhivsan, is one among the many to have adopted the change. He tells mid-day, “This little step has gone miles for our girls. They have a sense of respect, recognition, acceptance and a different confidence now. They aspire to have careers of their own, something we couldn’t even dream of for ourselves. We are proud of our daughters and the nameplates put the importance right where it should be.”
Another villager, Haridas Bhusare, whose daughter is studying in Nashik city, adds, “Customarily, we considered girls as guests in their own homes and boys as owners or heirs. Girls were married off young and didn’t stay for long with their parents. But we are changing.” He says that the small gesture is a reminder for respect towards the daughters and literacy of the girl child.
While their lessons are out-of-box and Gavit’s methodology of teaching is more practical than theory based, students at the Hiwali Zilla Parishad schools are also taught about women who were firsts in various professions. “I teach them about female role models as a motivation to pursue the career of their dreams,” Gavit says.