Women's Universities: Instilling good life

BPSMV
Avinashilingam-University

Mody University of Science and Technology aims to impart quality education to girls around the world

BPSMV (Top) and  Avinashilingam University for Women, Coimbatore (Below)

THE women of Khanpur Kallan, a remote village in Haryana, would have been leading a mundane life, deprived of education. The birth of a women’s university changed it all. Remember, Haryana has the lowest sex ratio in the country at 843. Contrast this with Khanpur Kallan village where it stands at an incredible 1379. The average women literacy rate of India is 64 percent, while that of this village is 72 percent. It is the pioneering effort of Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya (BPSMV) that made the big difference here.

 

Focus on societal development

“In principle we take care of women, both inside and outside the university,” shares Dr Pankaj Mittal, Vice Chancellor, BPSMV. Santosh, a woman from the same village concurs, “Is university ne ham auratonkizindagibadal di aurgaonwalonkoapnabanadiya” (This University changed the life of village women and won their heart). Santosh got hand-holding from BPSMV university students, who made her a member of a Self Help Group. This helped her to purchase a buffalo with money channelled by the students. Earlier, even the thought of going to a bank petrified Santosh, but now she moves around with an air of confidence, a good example of how women’s universities can bring about societal development.

MEENA-CHANDAWARKARDr Meena Rajiv
Chandavarakar,
VC, Karnataka State Women’s University, Bijapur

Many Muslim students from neighbouring villages join us. Families with conventional mindset largely send their kids to us. We nourish girls and give them a chance to blossom to the fullest 

 


 

Dr SheelaDr Sheela
Ramachandran,
VC, Avinashilingam University for Women, Coimbatore.

We believe in community development. We teach women not only through formal but also informal education. An overall development is high on our priority


 

Dr (Mrs) Pankaj MittalDr (Mrs) Pankaj Mittal,
VC, BhagatPhool
Singh, Mahila Vishwavidyalaya

Society is recognizing the potential of women who are excelling in diverse spheres. Slowly women counterparts are breaking the glass ceilings

Boon for rural students  

The expansion of gender-specific universities has made a big impact on the status of women. “About one-sixth of our students are from rural and tribal areas and around 60 percent of our students are from conservative families,” says Dr Sheela Ramachandran, Vice Chancellor of Avinashilingam University for Women, Coimbatore. Shanmuga Priya from Karattur village in Tamil Nadu is a shining example.

After failing to crack medical entrance by just a 2-mark deficit, Shanmuga enrolled for a women-friendly BSc Home Science programme at Avinashilingam University, a women’s institution, with the dream of becoming an ideal homemaker. After her graduation, she applied for Tamil Nadu State Civil Services Commission exam and cracked it in the first attempt. “The university inculcated a good life education and how to accommodate with existing social system,” Shanmuga Priya, now Additional Superintendent of Police, Chennai, says proudly. The high-profile police officer, a mother of two, balances her life beautifully. “I have not hired a cook, being a Home Science student I should take care of healthy diet of my family,” she shares.    

These universities make students aware of themselves, encouraging them to realize their position in the society. “We are empowering women with education. They recognize their potential to excel in various spheres and do better than men. Slowly women counterparts are breaking the glass ceilings,” Dr Mittal elaborates.

 

The liberal ambience

Here women can participate in any sphere of the learning process. There is freedom to wear clothes without being stared at. Those from conservative communities benefit a lot. “We have many Muslim students wearing burqa or clothes of their choice from neighbouring villages. Families with conventional mindset largely send their kids to us. We nourish girls and give them a chance to blossom out,” says DrMeena Rajiv Chandavarakar, VC of Karnataka State Women’s University (KSWU). MausamiSinha, an alumnus of Mody University of Science and Technology, says her apprehension over moving from co-ed to same sex university was short-lived. “After reading horrific tales about sexual assault, the basic need of parents remains safety. An all-women set-up gave sound sleep to my parents, who live  in Bihar,” says Mausami, a Process Analyst at Tech Mahindra. 

Rajeshwarifood
cricket

Rajeshwari who excels in bowling is seen here in action against Sri Lanka (Right). She wants to turn a cricket coach and also do research in Physical Education

Genesis of women universities

Following the footsteps of SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, today there are eight others in the league. It was the vision of Dhondo Keshav Karve, popularly known as Maharishi Karve, which led to the formation of SNDT University, India’s first women’s university. He created an ashram for women, recognizing the role of education to make them independent. He followed the model of Japan Women’s University in Tokyo, and in 1916 he started the first college with five students, which later developed into a university. 

After three decades, Dr T.S. Avinashilingam, a renowned educationist formed Sri Avinashilingam Home Science College for Women in Coimbatore, which is today a popular and large university imparting home science education at all levels. A strong believer in empowering the downtrodden, he first started a boys’ college in Coimbatore. In 1957 he founded the Avinashilingam Home Science Women’s College, as it would help women manage their households well.

BPSMV began as a Gurukul. BhagatPhool Singh, a revenue collector  established the gurukul with three girls during the 1930s. After he died in 1942, his daughter Subhashini Devi took over the mission. She went door-to-door for funds to build a girls’ college. By the time it became a university in 2007, it had 150 acres of land, all donated by people. The university now has 7000 residential students.

fencing

Sports activities like fencing are catching up in women’s universities in a big way

Across India

Pandit Hiralal Shastri conceptualized Banasthali University, the largest residential university for women in the world. It came up in 1943 and received deemed university status in 1983. 

Down south, KSWU was created after Prof. DM Nanjundappa committee report emphasized the need of universities in the neglected parts of Karnataka. Thus the special women’s university came into being at Bijapur in 2003.  

The first private public women’s university, Jayoti Vidyapeeth Women’s University in Jaipur was formed in 1982. A special women’s university offering exclusively technical education is the Mody University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Rajasthan. Mother Teresa Women’s University at Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu offers exclusive distance education for women. 

 

Learning ecosystem

A lot of universities focus on improving communication skills of students from rural areas. Personality development programmes play a vital role in helping girls overcome psychological problems. When Chetna from Sohati village in Sonipat district, Haryana joined BPSMV for BA-MA English Integrated programme, she found the accent of professors quite tough. “Attending compulsory language lab in the first semester transformed me,” she says. Later, when the university conducted a women parliament session, she stood first for arguing about the Bill on Khappanchayat. “Since many students come from regional language medium schools, the labs help them to enhance their personality and compete with urban students,” informs Prof. Ratna Kumari, VC of Sri Padmavathi Mahila Visvavidhyalam.

 

Co-curricular activities

Many universities have come up with unique papers on gender studies and also encourage co-curricular activities. KSWU offers Feminist Jurisprudence, a credit transfer paper; Centre for Ideal Womanhood focus on developing spirituality, character building, civic sense, care and concern for elders; and Centre for Performing Arts to unfold creative expressions. Rajeshwari Gayakwad, a BA final year student was recently felicitated after she got selected in the India team for the Sri Lanka series. Rajeshwari, a bowler, wants to turn a coach. “My ambition is to become a physical education scholar and instructor and also do PhD,” she shares.

Moot court competitions have benefitted Poornima Gautham, a third year BA LLB student at MITS. “I developed confidence on how to argue before male counterparts, judges and convince them,” shares Poornima who plans to take up women’s rights.

Sreedevi Prasath, who did MSc in Home Science from Avinashilingam, runs Greens & Grains Hotel, a multi-cuisine vegetarian restaurant. Even now she calls up her teachers for guidance on how to apply good nutritional value to various dishes.

kajali-PaintalKajali Paintal,
UNICEF’s Regional Nutrition Specialist for South Asia

My perseverance and discipline comes from the learning I got from SNDT. An educated woman will boost and contribute to overall national development

 


 

Shanmuga PriyaShanmuga Priya,
Additional Superintendent of Police, Chennai

The university inculcated a good life education and how to accommodate with the existing social system. Being a Home science student I take care of healthy diet of my family

Value-based learning

The focus of women universities is on juxtaposing value with modern education. To inculcate Indian values, many universities have made it compulsory to wear khadi clothes. “A paper solely on ethos during MBA programme taught us on how to connect ancient ethos with corporate world,” says DevinaChaturvedi, a Credit Analyst at Axis Bank and an alumnus of Banasthali University.

Women’s role in research

Nationally, women’s contribution in research and development is abysmal. But many women universities contradict it. With Avinashilingam’s h-index being 13 and highest impact factor 3.433, DrSheelaRamachandran says, “We firmly believe that researcher must either publish or perish. We focus entirely on community-based research and technology transfer. As per AICTE’s 2013 report only one-third of the Science graduates are women. But in our University enrolment is 74 percent of the sanctioned strength which contribute to 16 percent of the total student population of our University.” KajaliPaintal, an alumnus of SNDT concurs. “Out of 16 girls 14 went on to do PhD. We applied our brains and practiced it in our field,” said Paintal who works at UNICEF as Regional Nutrition Specialist for South Asia.

 

Reach of women universities

Many women colleges are converting into co-ed, as there are challenges in terms of filling seats and finding women faculty for high positions. For Dr Mittal, a major deterrent is the attitude of faculty who cold shoulder universities in remote areas. Dr Subba Reddy, former VC of MUST says, “We need proactive policies for rural girls, like free education. The budget allocation for science and technology is low compared  to China, Japan and Korea.” In the 12th plan, MHRD has proposed 20 women’s universities. DrSheela, concludes, “When you educate a woman you educate a whole generation.” 

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