If asked, “Whose name appears on the nameplate on your door?” most people would reply, “That of the man of the house!” Though we do come across the occasional nameplate that bear the names of both husband and wife, this is still a rare occurrence. Even today, the norm is to identify the house with the head of the household, usually male. So would you believe it if you were told that a small village in Maharashtra has 5231 households that proudly display the names of their daughters or daughters-in-law on their doors? In 28 villages in the Kumbharjhari and Akoladev areas of Jafrabad Taluka in Jalna District, this is now a fact.
From modest dwellings to bungalows, all families here have put the names of their daughters or daughters-in-aw on their doors. The person responsible for instigating this significant change is Dadabhau Jagdale, from DIECPD(District Institute for Educational and Continuous Professional Development). Though working as a freelance resource person for the last 11 years, Jagdale ‘Sir’ is fully committed to the cause of education. When asked what made him come up with the nameplate idea, he says, “I was extremely agitated when I first heard of the Kopardi incident in July, in which a 15-year-old girl was brutally raped. Unfortunately, such cases are very common in our society. Then, when on the television news I heard five reports of violence against women, one after the other, involving either sexual abuse or rape, dowry death or murder, I was speechless. I could not comprehend how people could behave in such an inhuman manner towards those very girls who bring such happiness to our households. Don’t they realise that it is daughters who keep the home joyous and vibrant! I knew I had to do something to bolster the status of women in the family and in society.”
Jagdale ‘Sir’ grew committed to the notion that every daughter must get her due in terms of recognition within her family. Thinking along these lines, he eventually came up with the idea of changing nameplates to have daughters’ names inscribed on them. He gave serious thought to how such a programme might be implemented. He spoke to the Director of the DIECPD and to other educational officers. Though the officers liked the idea, they were of the opinion that teachers should get involved in the campaign only outside of school hours. Jagdale ‘Sir’ immediately began working to put the plan in motion. The campaign was called “Maajhi Lek, Maajha Sanman” (“My Daughter, My Pride”).
More than 109 teachers, cluster heads and resource persons from the Akoladev and Kumbharjhari villages actively supported the campaign. At the outset, meetings were organised with teachers. The theme of the campaign was expressed as: “Daughters should be recognised as an important part of the family and society.” The objective was to increase the girls’ self-confidence, and enhance their importance in the eyes of society.
More meetings followed, in 28 villages, with intensive discussions on how girls and daughters were an important part of society. These meetings took place early in the day or late at night, in village public squares or in temples. All the teachers, and a number of village youth, worked hard to help make the campaign a success.
At the same time, other teachers and resource persons had undertaken the task of making the nameplates for all the girls in these villages. They decided to use easily obtained metal sheets for the plates. Teachers, resource persons and cluster heads came together to contribute the necessary funds. They did not use school funds for this project. Nor did the teachers work on this project during school hours, but spent time on it early in the morning or late at night. Those teachers with good handwriting took it upon themselves to carve the names of the girls on the plates and also the slogan “Maajhi Lek, Maajha Sanman” (“My Daughter, My Pride”) below the names.
The villagers chose the first day of the Navratri festival as the day of inauguration. On 1 October 2016, a ceremony was held in Savargaon Mhaske in the presence of the local MP, Santosh Danve. Though it rained unexpectedly that day, more than 400 people attended the occasion. All the houses, from simple dwellings to large bungalows, got their new nameplates that day.
From now on, each house would be identified with a daughter’s name. Girls were thrilled to see their names on their doors. Their eyes shone with the realisation that they too were considered important members of the family.
Jagdale ‘Sir’ recalls, “Though our initial idea was to make the nameplates with the names of daughters, we found that there were some households which did not have daughters. In such cases we decided to use the name of the daughter-in-law. But this was not easily done. The daughter-in-law might break her back for the household, but she’s still considered an ‘outsider’, particularly in traditional rural areas like these. So in a way this project also helped daughters-in-law gain self-esteem.”
There were further difficulties in the way of implementing such an idea. In many households, the husband’s or the in-laws’ ego became a big hurdle to be crossed. Some objected, “We are the ones who worked hard and built this house! Why should we put up the name of this person who was not even born into this family, but has come from a different one?” In such instances, Jagdale ‘Sir’ sought the help of the local ‘Meena-Raju Manch’ groups that worked to sensitise schoolchildren about gender equality. Some teachers, too, visited such households on their own initiative, and tried to make the families realise that their daughters-in-law were akin to the daughters of the house.
“But even so, there were some who adamantly refused to put up the names of their daughters-in-law. We defeated them using guerrilla tactics. If any household categorically refused to change its name plate, we would immediately change the nameplates of all the surrounding houses. Of course, those daughters and daughters-in-law were very happy, and discussions ensued on why only one house in the neighbourhood was left without the new nameplate. Finally, to get out of this embarrassing situation and to seem to be as forward thinking as others in the village, the resisting families also started asking us to change their nameplates.”
The changing of nameplates has proven to be a catalyst for other changes. The girls are happy to see their names on the doors. It gives them great pleasure to think that they represent their families. The school-going girls are studying with renewed vigour, while the campaign has motivated yet others to work hard to establish their own identity and individuality.
“For me, the slogan “My Daughter, My Pride” that appears on all the name plates is all-important. If even a fraction of our villagers accept that our daughters and daughters-in-law represent us, and agree that they too should be given every opportunity for progress, I would consider this project a success,” says Dadabhau Jagdale
Jagdale ‘Sir’ has not just asked others to change their nameplates, he has done so in his own house as well. He lives in the village of Deulgaonraja in Buldhana district, some 22 km from Jalna. He has a son and a daughter, but it is the daughter’s name that appears on the nameplate outside his home. The CEO of Jalna, Deepak Chowdhari, called Dadabhau Jagdale to congratulate him on the campaign. He also sent out a circular saying that it was worthy of being replicated throughout the district, as it helps to make girls more confident and increases their self-esteem.
Although, at the start, teachers, centre heads and resource persons spent out of their own pockets to make the nameplates, the programme is now getting a very good response. Many have come forward to contribute funds for all the name plates for an entire village. In such cases, the local teachers have requested that they contribute the amount to the school. In the past few months, according to Jagdale ‘Sir’, the taluka of Jafrabad alone has raised Rs 10 lakhs in donation money. These community contributions are now being used to equip the Zilla Parishad schools for e-learning.
Blog: Snehal Bansode Sheludkar
with inputs from Dadasaheb Jagdale resource person DIECPD, Jalna
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team