Women on Wheels

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WOMEN

WHEELS

Arvind Gupta Ishita Dharap



WOMEN

WHEELS Arvind Gupta Ishita Dharap


Dedicated to P. Sainath Extraordinary People's Journalist

This book was developed under a grant from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. Text Copyright: Arvind Gupta Illustrations Copyright: Ishita Dharap


Sheela Rani Chunkath is a young, dynamic lady IAS - District Collector of Pudukkottai. She is sensitive to women's atrocities and marginalization. As the Chairperson of the District Literacy Society, she adds CYCLING to the literacy movement.

Kamli is a fiery young woman. Poverty prevents her from completing her education. Determined and strong she stands up for what she thinks is right.

Amina is Kamli's dear childhood friend. She is gutsy and resourceful. Married into a traditional family, she struggles to break her fetters and fly free.

Ravi is Kamli's younger brother. He is everyone's favourite mischief maker. He is curious and climbs every tree and wall to apprise himself of the latest happenings in Pudukkottai. He is a helping and lovable lad. 1


Our story begins in 1991. It was a warm summer morning in the District of Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, India...

Yes, What is it, Ravi? What's all the screaming about?

Ravi was Kamli's younger brother. He was nine, and was always monkeying around. But Kamli sensed something different today. Could it be an accident? Something seemed amiss. 2


Amina was Kamli's friend. See this ULTRASOUND report. You must abort!

Amina

Please, No!

Kamli, what will happen? Will he hurt her? Is she in trouble? I hope not, Ravi. If that goon of a husband hurts her, I don't know what she'll do! Let's visit her to see if she's okay.

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Kamli and Ravi rushed towards their friend Amina's house.

They knocked but got no answer. Where was Amina? Was she all right?

Sex determination tests to find the sex of an unborn baby were widely prevalent in their district. Young, innocent mothers were unsuspecting. They thought it was a simple ritual - a preparation for welcoming home the little bundle of joy...

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Kamli understood the reasons in a flash. Baby girls were unwanted! They were a burden. Better to abort them in the womb!

Why didn't she directly go to the hospital? Kamli cursed herself. Would it have helped Amina? Could she have stopped the murder and saved the baby girl?

Come Ravi, let's go home. No point hanging around. We'll come later.

Hope Amina and the baby are fine? I pray for their safety and well-being. Someone must teach Amina's husband a befitting lesson. No one should undergo such horror! 5


Pudukkottai, in Tamil Nadu was famous for its Nature Cure Centre. But as in most patriarchal societies, here too, women's rights to equality, education and freedom were trampled on. Girl's education was low priority. Girls meant dowry and debt. Tiring, back breaking household chore was not considered work. Women earned less than men for the same work.

A girl's destiny was decided by men - father, brothers, and husband. From birth to death women lived a life of fear, and exploitation. No one should bear girls. They were a curse!

Dr. K. Lakshmana Sarma - often called the Father of Nature Cure in India set up the Nature Cure Centre in Pudukkottai. According to Nature Cure: Eat less, eat simple, eat raw. 6

THE WHITER YOUR BREAD, THE SOONER YOU ARE DEAD.


Kamli pondered over these issues. The unequal, unjust power relationship between the sexes troubled her. She dreamt of a just world which would accord women their rightful place. But not all was amiss.

It was a busy morning at the Collector's office. A dynamic, lady officer Ms. Sheela Rani Chunkath had recently been appointed as the District Collector of Pudukkottai. She was also the Chairperson of the District Literacy Society and in-charge of the National Literacy Mission (NLM). The NLM was a nationwide effort to increase literacy, especially in the remote rural hinterland. She had a tough task on her hands. She had to make it a success. So, there was abuzz of excitement in the office.

Good morning, everyone!

Good morning, Madam!

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After Independence India was able to feed its vast population, but its literacy record remained dismal. It had the largest unschooled population in the world. The Government administered Adult Education classes ran mostly on paper. Top down literacy campaigns did not work.

In the 1980's the Government involved Non-Government Organizations (NGO's) and People's Science Movements (PSM's) to imbue life in the literacy campaign.

Inspired by the success of the Ernakulum Model the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) planned to replicate the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) in Pudukkottai. Eminent educationist Dr. V. B. Athreya was the State coordinator of the BGVS. Paulo Freire They mobilized volunteers, was a Brazilian educator teachers and principals, who taught landless peasants Rotary, Lion's Club, and farm workers to read and write Religious Groups and in just 30 days! The new primers were Bank Officers etc modelled on Freire's revolutionary pedagogy in this mission. which delved deep into the experiences and Wasn't it the lives of the poor. They used images, pictures, responsibility words culled from the lives of the oppressed. of the whole society? “B” was not for “Ball” but “Bonded Labour” “M” was not for “Monkey” but “Moneylender” As the new primers reflected the lives and struggles of the poor they became an instant hit and captured the imagination of the learners.

The BGVS found an able ally in Collector Sheela Rani. As a sensitive officer she cranked the government machinery to respond to the challenge. She allocated responsibilities at all levels to make the system accountable. She was sensitive to the plight of women and their marginalization. Her slogan was: Teach a boy and you make a man; Teach a girl and you teach a generation 8

The motivated cadres of the PSM's were able to mobilize people in large numbers. They used various creative forms - folk plays, skits, lectures, slide-shows to demonstrate the advantages of literacy. In 1989, with the help of the Kerala Sashtra Sahitya Parishat (KSSP) Ernakulum District in Kerala became the first Totally Literate District in India. Following this was launched 'Akshara Keralam' which made Kerala the first fully literate state in 1991.

Sheela Rani added CYCLING to the 3Rs.


The District literacy survey results were shocking...

The BGVS took the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) forward. They showed that even in a non-revolutionary social milieu it was possible to carry out a mass literacy campaign. There was tremendous reserve of innate goodness and volunteer spirit which could be harnessed for a good cause. Thus started - the Light of Knowledge movement (ARIVOLI IYAKKAM) which cut across linguistic, caste, religious and other sectarian barriers.

Entire villages came out to support ARIVOLI activities. Songs, poems and impromptu speeches bubbled up from illiterate people who were thought to be ignorant. Thousands of motivated volunteers galvanized many more to join the campaign. Once the classes started in earnest the movement gained credibility. Word spread and more volunteers pitched in. Their simple slogan was :

EACH ONE TEACH TEN

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None. But I have been wondering if there was a way to end such atrocities against women. Could women in some way help in preventing such crimes?

That evening as Kamli and Ravi sat down to eat on the floor there was palpable discomfort in the air. Any news Kamli?

If Amina and I hadn't been pulled out of school, maybe such cruelties could have been prevented. Good schooling would have helped us lead better lives. Our teacher used to say :

Sorry, Kamli. Our parents didn't pull you out of school to make your life worse. How I wish you and Amina could have completed school?

“Education has the power to transform your life�. Why were we girls pulled out of school?

I too feel Amma-Appa did what they felt was right.

We are born women, and we must accept our fate. It isn't an individual's fault. But we must continue our struggles.

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I'm glad you aren't sad anymore, Kamli!


That night, in two different locales, two different rooms, two women thought hard over the sad state of women. But could they endeavour to change them? 70% WOMEN ILLITERATE! Women are in the pits! Daughters get less to eat at home compared to sons. Girls drop out early from school to help fetch water, firewood; to cook food and take care of siblings. In short, a girl is born into wretchedness and lives the life of a slave. But WOMEN HOLD HALF THE SKY and they are certainly entitled to a better life. Why haven't women found strength to organize and fight for their rights? An educated girl will benefit the whole household.

‌.Our scriptures exalt powerful goddesses like Durga and Kali. But reality is very different. In the real world, women don't have much say. Men decide; women meekly follow. Tradition has an amazing inertia and women's oppression will remain the same.

Girls are born to be subservient - to obey orders. And they do this without questioning! Women are taught to obey their husbands and not to retort back even when injustice is heaped on them. Is it our fate? Will things remain the same? Maybe, women will always remain mute sufferers ‌

I feel the women of Pudukkottai will benefit the most by learning to read and write! Education will open their minds and give flight to their imagination. Educated women will be able to fight all kinds of exploitation. With education, women will be able to transform their lives for the better.

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Next day, Sheela Rani called a meeting to discuss the finer nitty-gritties of the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC).

Madam, the programme holds good promise. The BGVS volunteers have done a fine job. They have already laid the warp and weft - the basic foundation for the campaign.

We need to act fast!

I know the Headmaster of the Boys' school located on the east end of Pudukkottai. I will ask him to send some senior boys to help. We will need a band of motivated volunteers to reach out to remote villages where illiteracy thrives.

We need to tap the creative energies of all sections of society for proper implementation. We must plan to minimize the drop-outs.

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But right now we need a virtual army of motivated men and boys to kick-start the campaign. We must not forget that we have a time bound target!


The survey shows that women, especially in the remotest parts are the most illiterate. So, our campaign should be WOMEN-CENTRIC. We must focus on problems that women face - discrimination, illiteracy, high-drop out from schools, malnutrition etc. Women will be pivotal to the success of this mission. Educated women will change their community. Learning to read and write will truly empower them. So, let's mobilize and organize women! But women can't ride bikes. How will they travel to remote villages?

We'll teach women to ride bikes. Men drive two-wheelers; women always sit as pillions. Women are literally taken for a ride. The revolution of the wheel has completely bypassed women. Boys somehow manage to learn to ride the bike early. Not so for girls. Girls are never taught to ride a bike. With zero-mobility girls become more dependent on the men folk. It lowers their self-worth and shatters their confidence. Slowly, this male-stereotype gets deeply ingrained. Boy's cycle, girls walk. We need to break the myth that girls can't ride bikes. We will add CYCLING to the literacy campaign and make women MOBILE!!

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We will add CYCLING to the literacy campaign. Learning to ride a bicycle will increase a woman's self-worth. She can fetch firewood and water on the carrier; and sell vegetables where she gets the best price. She will be more self-reliant. This freedom will help her in taking independent decisions and empower women. It will take time and a lot of struggle. But it is certainly worth trying.

I feel the women of Pudukkottai will love to learn cycling. The poorest women will gain the most from it. It will liberate them from the bondage of caste and class. The bicycles will add great fun to the literacy campaign.

Er.... well.... We'll see.

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The bicycle revolution in Pudukkottai took off with a BANG! Soon small girls, farm labourers, hardworking quarry women started cycling. They learnt to read and write. But they loved cycling the most. They were not just steering bikes - but their own destinies.


FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT A popular slogan during the campaign: TODAY ON THE MOON THERE IS A HUMAN FOOTPRINT, SHAME ON YOU FOR USING YOUR THUMBPRINT!

One woman quarry worker said: “By learning to cycle, I have broken many barriers - gender, age, caste and class. It was unheard of for a woman from a poor dalit family like mine to even touch the cycle, let alone ride it through the streets. Now I can talk on equal terms with the contractors and even ride past them!”

The success of the Total Literacy Programme (TLC) was based on: 1. Political commitment of policy makers. 2. Involvement of learners and community at large. 3. Spirit of volunteerism. 4. Suitable state infra-structure. 5. Flexibility in decision making. 6. A tight calendar. 15


In India, the bicycle has been the VEHICLE OF THE MASSES. People use the bike to carry sacks of grain, heaps of firewood, pots of water and barrels of milk. With a basket tied to the carrier the bike becomes a veritable mobile shop. Often the entire family travels on the bike.

Bicycle is the most energy efficient form of transportation ever invented. It uses no fossil fuels, emits no noxious gases and leaves behind NO carbon footprint. During the American Women's Liberation Movement the bicycle symbolized INDEPENDENCE and FREEDOM. In Pudukkottai too, the cycle became the political symbol for women's struggle. There is a car conspiracy. People are paid fat cheques to eat junk food in expensive joints. Soon people become fat like their pay-cheques. And then they fritter this money on gyms and health spas. So what they earn is soon snached away.

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Bicycles still remain the cheapest and sanest mode of transport. After some savings even the poor can buy a bike.

The bicycle is a multi-terrain vehicle. It can go through fields, dirt tracks and streams. It exercises the body. The bike is your personal gym with MINIMUM MAINTENANCE, MAXIMUM BENIFITS. With very few moving parts it is easy to fix. The bike is light enough to be lifted and carried on the shoulder in case of an emergency. For short distance travel there is nothing to beat the bike. No more dependence on overloaded buses!


Soon literacy classes started in right earnest in Pudukkottai. Classes were held within 200-meters from a learner's house. Volunteers taught 10-15 learner's for 90-minutes at night, five-six times a week. The classes were held in homes, temple courtyards, mosques, cowsheds, under street lamps often huddling around kerosene wick bottles.

Vasantha - a neo-literate had this comment: “I have become a compulsive reader. I read everything which comes my way - billboards and signs. I even read the newspaper in which my provisions are packed.� Three quarters of the neo-literates were women. 17


One morning, the literacy camps had a secret visitor. It was Ravi, peeping over the wall to see what was happening. He was thrilled to see so many women learning to read and write.

How nice! Finally, there were classes for women! Ravi was overjoyed. There was a twinkle in his eyes. He would bring Kamli here. She'd be thrilled!

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Eh?

Kamli! You aren't going to believe what I just saw! Come with me right now! Hurry!


That very day, Kamli decided to join the literacy class.

She experienced the same joy she had felt in school years back. Though she could read and write, she enjoyed attending the classes. But all the while she still thought of Amina. How was her dear friend?

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Soon many songs were composed in praise of cycling. “Learn to ride the cycle sister, Set in motion the wheel of life, sister. Times have changed, Now women drive, men sit on the carrier!� Women were happy but not the men. Women cyclists evoked many abusive responses from men. Women's emancipation was an affront to their hegemonic power.

I was scared of falling. But it was such amazing fun!

Men preferred women sitting on the pillion and not in the driver's seat. They felt their power slipping and got furious. Why were women attempting such ridiculous things? What hurt them most was that women were learning cycling without the men's help.

If they come cycling in front of me, I will throw mud at them!

Men ridiculed women, jeered and poked fun at them. They even threatened to shame them in public.

But unmindful of these threats the women kept pedalling, spreading the message of mobility, empowerment and self-reliance.

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With so much animosity from men the volunteers decided to hold cycling classes at night. With fewer men jeering and making fun of women cyclists it was more peaceful at night.

Kamli, too, enrolled herself in a cycling camp. She did this secretly, without telling her parents. However, one night, her mother spotted her slowly tiptoeing out of the house...

The women eagerly awaited the night lessons. At night they were free to cycle without the men's barbs. Kamli! You're cycling so well!

Kamli's mother was horrified. She thought Kamli would get into deep trouble. All kinds of dreadful thoughts filled her mind. To ensure Kamli's safety, she quietly followed her one night‌

...but nothing could have prepared Kamli's mother for this sight. Her daughter, her shy Kamli, was zipping around, on a BICYCLE! Kamli's mother just couldn't believe her eyes. Her heart glowed as she walked back home.

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Next morning, at Kamli's house -

Kamli, there is something I have been wanting to talk to you for a while. I trust you and maybe you can help us. As you know I work in the stone quarry near the lake. The contractor is very exploitative. Forget about any amenities or facilities. He does not even pay us minimum wages.

Of course, I'll do my best! What's it, Amma? You sound troubled!

Tell me, Amma! Please!

Last week the contractor, called our friend Senthil and forced him to put his thumbprint on some paper. Senthil being illiterate couldn't read the document. Now it turns out, that paper makes Senthil a bonded labourer to the contractor! The contractor treats him and others like his slaves!

Amma, you need to learn to read and write to help them!

Yes, and cycling too? I know!

I followed you last night. I was really impressed. You are educated, enlightened!

Oh, Amma! Thanks so much. I thought you will be upset. To be able to read and write is almost magical! You must enrol too. I will take you there tomorrow.

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And so, Kamli's mother, too, joined the brigade of new learners.


Collector Sheela Rani was aware about the atrocious conditions of quarry workers. She'd heard horrid stories of their exploitation by the contractor. She planned a scheme where a group of women could self-organize, lease a piece of land and quarry it cooperatively and say HELL to the contractor.

The women's condition is dismal. They need help.

The contractor was politically connected. No one could dare raise her voice ‌

Read the Collector's order.

A few volunteers and government officers assisted the quarry women with paper work to set up a cooperative.

The quarry workers worked in primitive conditions. Breaking stones in the sun was back breaking. Their wages were delayed. The women were always paid less than the men for the same amount of work.

But after the Collector's order, the women rejoiced.

Kamli's mother led the first group and leased a piece of land in Pudukkottai for quarrying‌

We need to learn to read and write soon!

...and they did famously. In the literacy classes they learnt of their rights. There was collective decision making, and a disciplined work culture. For them it was a dream come true. They had freed themselves from the yoke of the contractor. Instead of seeking work, they were now creating jobs for others. Learning to read was still difficult, but riding a bike was sheer fun!

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Many Muslim women were unable to read the letters their husbands sent from the Gulf. Under the plea of making them read the Koran, the women were sent to the literacy classes. Street theatre was very effective in bringing the message of literacy. Skits, dramas were regularly performed to increase awareness.

It was a good way to make the audience speak to garner their feedback and understand their reactions.

Raju, do you know what this says? No, I don't. The contractor asked me to sign it! It must be something important.

If you could read, you would know that this makes you a bonded labourer to the contractor! Then he can treat you like a slave!

READ AND WRITE TO BETTER YOUR LIFE! The skits were effective because they mimicked everyday exploitation.

Why should we learn to read and write? Why waste time learning silly things when we have hundreds of pressing problems? We are not seeking government jobs, so why do we need this education?

Education is not just for getting better jobs, or for making more money. It's a powerful tool to make life a little better. Education will help you to understand your situation, analyse it and take appropriate action. It will better your life! Reading and writing will open a new world of opportunities. Once you can read the rules and laws you will be able to protect yourself better against exploitation. LEARNING CAN LIBERATE

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In a traditional society, men simply couldn't stand the sight of women riding bikes. Soon the atmosphere became charged and dangerous. Many husbands, brothers and fathers strongly disapproved of this freedom. The women were challenging their age old authority. How could they?

How dare she disobey me? Who does she think she is? She just can't zoom around on a bike like a hooligan!

It is time I give her a piece of my mind! Things are really getting out of hand! What will the elders of the community say? A woman riding a bike all alone at night is awful. These shameful acts must stop at once!

What does she mean by “independence�? Have I ever stopped her from going out? In fact, I myself drop her to the temple every day!

Why do women need to read and write? Don't their husbands work hard and bring home money? There was only one person who was delighted with the new cyclists. He was the lone bicycle seller in Pudukkottai Mr. R. Manjunath. Women must be independent! They must be able to move around on their own! It's the only way society will progress! We must spread the message of mobility!

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A slow transformation took place in Kamli's home. Having tasted freedom the women wanted more. Kamli's mother was dying to try out new things.

There he is! I wanted to talk to him. Shall I wait until he finishes his meal?

Er... I wanted to speak to you for a long time. I wanted to ask you for something. It's special. What is it, Alagumai? You look a little nervous. What is it that you want? Please tell me.

Kamli's father was a sensitive and wise man. He considered all the options and replied:

Er...

We can't afford a bicycle right now. There is Ravi's school fee, and we need to save money for Kamli marriage! I am sorry. Yes, I understand. We can't afford this luxury right now.

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Despite continuous taunting and jeering the women kept pedalling. Over a hundred thousand women learnt to cycle in Pudukkottai. UNICEF was suitably impressed by this amazing feat and gifted 50 mopeds to village women health workers. Finally, the wheel had started rolling for women!

N. Kannamal - Central Coordinator of the Total Literacy Campaign, in an emotional moment, said that being on the bike made her feel like A PILOT IN FLIGHT! She composed a song: BIKE I LIKE I steer with the handle And pedal with my feet I can go long distance Even in the heat. Riding on the cycle Is freedom, full of bliss While dropping them to school The children get a kiss!

Many women preferred the men's bike with the handlebar in the front where they could seat a child. Slowly, the movement gained not only momentum, but also credibility. For women it became the “in-thing� to attend literacy classes, and learn to ride a bike.

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Now I can carry my children on the bike too. I can show them the whole town! With the bike I can do more work in a shorter span of time!

As a vendor I can sell my vegetables far away and get a better price!

I need to finish my riding lessons fast, as my literacy class starts within an hour!

Oh Wow! Will you take me there? I'd love to join too.

Soon, the literacy classes became synonymous with cycling. Some women came to the literacy classes straight from the cycling lessons...

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Since I began cycling, there has been a big change at home. My husband has started treating me with respect and as an equal.

I have heard a lot about these cycling lessons - what are they? Can anyone enrol? What is the fee? I would love to drop by and see for myself. When I was a kid, my brothers would drive my father's cycle all over town. I grew up thinking I couldn't learn cycling. But I have always been curious to learn.

The component of mobility added a new dimension to literacy. And once the women's appetite was whetted they wanted more! Over a quarter of all rural women and over one hundred thousand women learnt cycling in a year!


Many women in Pudukkottai couldn't afford to buy bikes. But to cater to rising aspirations Manjunath's Bicycle Shop now started renting bikes on an hourly basis. There weren't any bikes with a curved frame appropriate for women. But this did not dissuade women. They learnt cycling on men's bike. As for the bike rent the women somehow managed it. They shared bikes, split rents and hired bikes on credit.

Sheela Rani did what she was best at. She cajoled many social organizations - Rotarians, Lions, Religious Groups and Trusts to donate bikes. She ordered banks to give loans to women to buy bikes. She requested manufactures to rush more cycles to Pudukkottai.

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Amidst all this joy, it seemed there was one person who was left behind. One afternoon, Kamli spotted her old friend Amina in the market. She couldn't believe her eyes.

I am thrilled to see you. Come, let me first take you home, and give you some good food! God, we've been terribly worried about you!

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Just then at Manjunath's Cycle Shop, Ravi spotted his father, deep in conversation with the shop owner.


After a while they all reached home together‌

A cycle? And Amina?? This is really too much to take in!

Do you like it? Is this the model of the cycle you wanted?

I love it! But how did you arrange the money?

Manjunath is my old friend! He has been kind. We can pay him in instalments!

I am at a loss for words! Thank you so much!

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While Kamli's mother admired and tried out the new cycle, Amina and Kamli sat chatting.

Kamli, it was horrible, staying with him. My husband desperately wanted a son. The day we got the ultrasound test report, he was so mad, he just didn't speak. He didn't even ask me what I wanted! He just dragged me to the hospital for the abortion.

God, Kamli, I feel awful for what happened! My stomach churns when I think of that poor baby girl. She was killed for no fault of hers! What do I do now? I have no support? I have been walking around the village like a zombie. I felt numb till I saw you, and then it all came rushing back. What do I do now, Kamli?

Shhh, quiet. Don't worry. You're safe with us. I won't let anything happen to you. I'll take you somewhere tonight, which will lift your spirits.

Before being pulled out of school by her father, Amina had always been an ace student. Once again Amina felt a deep desire to learn.

Amina, the National Literacy Mission is conducting both literacy classes and well as cycling lessons for all women in our District. They call it the Total Literacy Campaign. I have joined these classes, and it's been a wonderful experience! It felt as if I was back in school, learning new things!

Such a thing has never happened before in our little town!

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I would love to see these literacy classes. As I already know how to read and write, I would like to help out too!


That very week, Amina joined the classes. She was both learning and teaching. Soon, all her fatigue vanished.

This is how your write “Ra”. Now who can tell me what words begin with “Ra?”, Sindhu?

Amina was so good that after a few days she was absorbed as a full time teacher in the campaign. She was clever and compassionate. These qualities made her the most loved teacher.

Slowly, Amina's strength returned. One day she met the village street theatre group, and had a long discussion with them. After that she gathered enough courage to share her story with the whole world.

Everyone wants a mother, a sister, and wife. Then why don't they want the girl child? SAVE her! She needs you! You need her!

I think it is very important and needs to be told. I don't want this to happen to anyone else!

We will definitely help you put your story down! We will take it to the people.

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The atrocities on Amina made her stronger and more determined. The mass struggle of women gave her the courage to speak against gender inequality and women's oppression. She became a full time social activist.

Many cycle races were organised in which thousands of women participated.

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Sheela Rani epitomized an ideal pro-poor government officer. Her sensitivity towards the poor especially the women won her plaudits. In 2008, she won the Prime Minister's Award for the Best Administrator in India.


THE BIKE BRIGADE

100,000 WOMEN ON WHEELS!

The women of Pudukkottai taught the world a lesson. Even in the most hopeless situation they found ways of hitting at their backwardness of expressing defiance, and hammered at the fetters that had kept them in bondage for centuries.

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In 1991 an extraordinary and unprecedented experiment took place in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, India. As part of the National Literacy Mission more than ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND unlettered village women learnt not only to read and write but also to ride BICYCLES. Freedom and mobility for women on this scale has been unheard of anywhere in the world. For the first time this inspiring story is being told in a captivating graphic novel.

Arvind Gupta is a science populariser and toymaker. He did a BTech from IIT Kanpur in 1975. He has received several honours, including the inaugural National Award for Science Popularization amongst Children (1988), Distinguished Alumnus Award of IIT, Kanpur (2000), Indira Gandhi Award for Science Popularization (2008) and the Third World Academy of Science Award (2010) for making science interesting for children. He shares his passion for books and toys through his popular website http://arvindguptatoys.com Ishita Dharap is an artist and designer. She studied at the Shristi School of Art, Design and Technology and graduated with a Diploma in art and design in 2012. Since then, she has been freelancing as a graphic designer and illustrator, while also exhibiting her paintings at a local gallery. She is also involved in teaching, and studying ways in which play can be brought into the classroom. She lives and works in Pune and her work can be viewed at cargocollective.com/ishitadharap