75-yo Lalti Devi is no more an 'angootha-chaap' — because of an adult literacy initiative in Varanasi

It is Beena Singh's mission to teach old women to read and write. Since 2019, through her NGO, Ideal Women Welfare Society, Devi has been teaching grandmothers and mothers, without charging any fee. The initiative has helped elderly women feel empowered and independent.

Ankit RathoreAnkit Rathore   1 Nov 2022 10:45 AM GMT

  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • koo
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • koo
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • koo
75-yo Lalti Devi is no more an angootha-chaap — because of an adult literacy initiative in Varanasi

More than 80 old women have benefitted from an adult-literacy initiative run by Beena Singh. All photos by Ankit Rathore

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

The act of signing a form to withdraw money from your bank account might be a mundane task for you but for 75-year-old Lalti Devi, it is something that fills her heart with pride.

"That day, when I pushed back the ink pad which was usually provided to me for my angootha ka nishaan [thumb impression] and asked for a pen instead, the cashier asked me if I was I sure I wanted a pen, to which I proudly replied as 'Yes, I do'," Devi, a resident of Bhullanpur village in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district told Gaon Connection

Devi is amongst more than 80 old women who have benefitted from an adult-literacy initiative run by Beena Singh, who has set up a non-governmental organisation, Ideal Women Welfare Society, to ensure these nani and dadi (grandmothers) experience the joy and pride in writing their names and reading alphabets. The NGO is based in Varanasi, over 300 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow.

Also Read: Rajasthan: From being confined in purdah indoors, women in Dholpur step out to set up small businesses

"It all began in 2015 when I felt that poor children from the marginalised communities in the area deserve a chance at education. They used to roam around aimlessly and had little chance of growing up and contributing to society," Beena Singh, the founder of the NGO narrated to Gaon Connection. It is then that she started organising free tuition classes for these kids.

"However, when the mothers or grandmothers of these kids came to the tuition to get the students back to their homes, I sensed that they were also yearning to read and write. Having lived all their lives as being dependent on others for filling forms or reading letters, they wanted to become independent," the 42-year-old added.

There are also batches allotted to training skills that can also help the women earn livelihoods.

It was in 2019 that Singh, who is a mother of two kids, decided to take up the education of women as a life mission. A marriage lawn in Bhulanpur locality has designated a hall for these classes which are conducted by Singh.

Soon, other activists and social workers in Varanasi began coming forward to help Singh in her cause.

Also Read: Married at 8 and unlettered herself, 49-year-old Saguni Devi from Ajmer champions girls' education

Deepika Mishra was one such activist. The 40-year-old funds the book, notebooks, and other stationery needed for these classrooms. Mishra mobilises other social workers in her circle to raise funds for welfare activities.

"The society in which we all live, there's no bigger cause than doing something which will enhance the life of a fellow living being. I am especially focused on providing the study material to this learning centre because women's education truly matters a lot. Not just for the women themselves but for their entire household," Mishra told Gaon Connection.

'Dream come true, life's fulfilled'

For 70-year-old Savitri Devi, attending the classes at the centre has realised her childhood dream of being able to read and write. She comes to the 'school' daily with her two daughter-in-laws and two grandkids.

A marriage lawn in Bhulanpur locality has designated a hall for these classes.

"When I was a kid, the school was far away from my village due to which my parents never dared to send me to learn. Had I been educated in my childhood, life would have been very different but I am thankful that Bina ji has made me learn to read and write. Now I can point out mistakes if my grandkids read or write wrong," Devi told Gaon Connection.

"I wanted to learn the letters in my lifetime. It was a cherished dream, now I am at peace knowing that I have mastered them and they aren't just some black marks on the paper anymore," she added.

Also Read: A mobile app provides rural women a platform to buy and sell livestock

Similar is the experience of 50-year-old Phoola Devi, who began attending the classes after seeing her mother-in-law attend them about a year ago.

"I had to learn to read and write at least. Earlier, I had to ferry along with a literate person to help me understand the papers whenever I had some work at the bank. Now, I am educated enough to not depend on anybody else for my work," she shared with Gaon Connection.

Skill development along with literacy

It's not just for the sake of achieving literacy that women from marginalised communities visit the learning centre. There are batches allotted to training skills that can also help the women earn livelihoods. These skills include a beautician's course, seamstress training, and henna designing.

Also Read: Dung to diyas — it's a cakewalk for rural women in Uttar Pradesh

"We have divided these skills into batches that run on two days a week each. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I teach them about the skills needed to become a beautician while on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I teach them stitching. Henna designing is reserved for Fridays and Saturdays," the founder of the NGO told Gaon Connection.

"Today, more than 200 women are attending these skill training courses to become independent in life. On Sundays, I teach only kids," she added.

"I started these skill training courses because I wanted these women not only to learn reading and writing but also become self-reliant financially," Beena Singh concluded.

#WomenEmpowerment #Women #Education #Varanasi #UttarPradesh #PositiveStory 

Next Story

More Stories

© 2019 All rights reserved.