Mewat Makeover: Female education now a prerequisite for marriage in Nuh

While parents are teaching their daughters to contest panchayat elections in Mewat, they are also looking for educated daughters-in-law

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Thursday 03 November 2022
Halima, the outgoing sarpanch of Salamba village in Mewat, says women in Mewat are gaining confidence. Photo: Raju Sajwan

This is the second of a 3-part series. Read the first part

The Haryana government’s decision to reserve half of Panchayat seats for women may have accelerated ongoing social change in the backward Nuh district. Not only are families getting their daughters to study but are also setting female education as the first condition of marriage, according to residents.

The demand for female education and literacy has also led to reduction in demands for dowry at the time of marriage. It has also made women assertive in tackling domestic violence.

Take the example of Faruna, a former sarpanch of Hussainpur village in Nuh block of Haryana’s Mewat (Nuh) district. She told Down To Earth her in-laws had already been active in politics.

But her Gram Panchayat was declared reserved for women in the last election. Also, minimum education was made mandatory for candidates for the first time. Faruna, who was 22 at the time and pursuing her graduation, was married off immediately.

“I wanted to be a teacher, did not have much understanding of politics. But as soon as I came to my in-laws’ house, I was elected sarpanch unopposed,” Faruna said.

“I began to understand politics. I received respect from the entire village respected. I saw to it that women did not face any problem my tenure. Initially, I was hesitant about attending meetings and speaking there. But later, I made every effort to make my point,” she added.

Faruna said her confidence had increased after joining politics. She said she was ready to contest elections for the post of state legislator if her family members asked her to do so.

Imran, brother-in-law of Faruna, said the village was shocked during the last election when it became known that the post of sarpanch had been reserved for women.

No female family member of his had studied up to eighth grade. Other families in the village were told that they could field a female family member.

“But everyone said our own family should contest the elections,” Imran said. So his younger brother Abbas, who was doing a Bachelor of Technology course, was married to Faruna. 

Imran said the first condition in about 90 per cent of marriages being fixed in Mewat now is that the girl should be educated. The main reason for this is the Panchayat elections. Women in Mewat are also studying to become Anganwadi or Accredited Social Health Activist workers.

Imran is associated with Radio Mewat, a community radio station. He goes from village to village in Mewat and conducts programmes. He said reserving Panchayat seats for women and making minimum education compulsory has proved to be very effective.

Farheen, who is also associated with Radio Mewat, said the law had also led to another change. Dowry has been sought in Mewat marriages for a long time. But this trend has come down considerably now.

Afsana is also contesting for the post of sarpanch of Salamba village. Afsana got married in 2020. Panchayat elections were to be held at that time too, but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Afsana’s mother-in-law Halima was the sarpanch at the time. She had studied till eighth grade. But the family decided that a more educated daughter-in-law should be made to contest the post.

Halima said reserving Panchayat seats for women and making minimum education compulsory for candidates had made women for vocal in case they were suffering domestic violence.

Mewat’s literacy rate

Eighty per cent of the population of Mewat (Nuh district) is Meo Muslim. This district is considered backward in terms of literacy.

According to the 2011 census, the average literacy rate here was 54.08 per cent, with a male percentage of 69.94 per cent and a female voter turnout of only 36.60 per cent.

According to the 2001 census, the overall literacy rate in Mewat was 43.50 per cent. The literacy rate of men was 61.20 per cent and that of women was only 23.90 per cent. 

The level of education in Mewat improved in 2011 compared to 2001. It is improving even more rapidly after that. According to the Economic Survey of Haryana 2021-22, Mewat is among the 115 aspirational districts in the country.

In 2021, Mewat saw an overall improvement of 27 per cent, including 19 per cent in health and nutrition, 15 per cent in agriculture and water resources, 33 per cent in financial inclusion and skill development, 21 per cent in basic infrastructure.

But the highest growth of 48 per cent was in the field of education.

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