Undoubtedly, education is the greatest leveller. However, despite all the abhiyans and interventions, a large section of our population remains illiterate.
Bhanumathi Narasimhan's authentic desire to reach out to this section is what makes her an 'educationalist' of a unique kind.
Bhanumathi is the Art of Living (AOL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's sister and the woman behind the 385-odd rural schools run by the volunteer-based humanitarian NGO.
Excerpts from an interview with her:
How important is education for women in India?
Value education is the need of the hour irrespective of gender.
Education is not just a process of collecting information. It should inculcate human values and self confidence.
There are many educated and monetarily independent women facing emotional challenges, who cannot handle their life or stressful situations. Often, suicides are a result of these emotional imbalances. This is common especially among the educated and affluent society.
When we are emotionally weak, we turn negative more easily. So, to nourish one's soul, one needs to turn to spirituality. Spiritual education alone can put you in a space where you are unshakable and can view life from a balanced angle.
What is Art of Living doing for women's rights?
Art of Living has been working to uplift women for over 30 years now. we have been giving them the right to education, and the freedom and confidence to be economically independent, while inspiring leadership among several rural youth.
In fact, many of our women yuvacharyas are now leaders in panchayat, MPs for women welfare and so on. We are also working for the right to live for women by educating our citizens against female feticide.
It is unfortunate that in a land where women are honoured as gods holding the portfolios of education, wealth and strength (Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga), we have to work to secure even basic rights like education and equal opportunity. Art of Living is working to change this through our diverse women empowerment initiatives and through our programs that inculcate the value of sacredness and honour for life beyond gender.
Do you think women's rights have improved in India?
We have a lot to do. If women do not feel safe, the very fabric of society is torn apart. It is a human rights issue, and both men and women have to stand up together to fight against this injustice, and come up with solutions.