KALI

by SWARI

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Swari brings together everyone who cares about women empowerment through KALI. Through events under this project, we aim to also break the harmful stereotypes against women in the society about what women can do and should do.

Through this project we take inspiration from the life and work of remarkable women, who've been pioneers and leaders for various causes in India. 

Taking their example, we invite women to participate in the all women led feast and community meals where we honour women leaders, students, teachers and all key members of the community who contribute tirelessly to develop their families and the larger community.

Mother Gnanamma
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SWARI Foundation launched Project Kali as an initiative to work with girls and women through a community based approach that recognizes the role and contributions of important women in our culture and history who have paved the way for women’s development and participation in the society. The inaugural event celebrated the work of Ms Fatima Shaikh on her 191st birth anniversary (Jan 9th 2022), widely known and globally recognized as the first Muslim teacher in India who opened schools for girls.

For the second event in series of Project Kali we want to honor and commemorate Mother Gnanamma on the occasion of her 200th birth anniversary this year. She is widely known for starting the first school for girls in Kilacheri, Tamil Nadu in the year 1862. She is also known to be the foundress of St Anne’s congregation in Madras and in Phirangipuram, Andhra Pradesh. She is the only lay woman to be canonized and beatified by the Holy See as the servant of God.

This was her vision for girls’education and empowerment:

“Do you think our girls need to be educated?” “Of course, Father. Education will liberate our women from a lot of needless suffering. If they were educated, they won’t be forced to live like men’s slaves. They will find gainful employment and so they will be able to stand on their own legs. That will make men treat them with respect and dignity and be kind to them. Because they would know that if they are cruel to women, women won’t live with them but walk away and earn a livelihood on their own. Now, illiterate as they are, they are forced to endure in silence all the indignities heaped on them by unscrupulous men. How many women do you think know how to read and write?”

What we hope to do through this community kitchen is to bring together girls and women in the community with our team at SWARI to organize, prepare and serve a meal for the girls in the community in the spirit and memory of Mother Gnanamma and the message conveyed by her life and work as exemplified in her parting message:

“My beloved children! Be obedient to those who are responsible for you! Listen to your spiritual guides! Besides giving academic and religious education to girls, be the protection and solace of women! Learn to live as women of service! Translate love of God into love of fellow human beings! Do not be dependent on the government or others financially! May your hard work be your protection and strength!”

Fatima Sheikh
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Image courtesy: Live wire

Swari brings together everyone who cares about women empowerment. We intend to create opportunities for women to speak, lead and act in their own benefit in various capacities so that they get the prominence and say in matters affecting them. Through events under this project, we aim to also break the harmful stereotypes against women in the society about what women can do and should do. We believe that a community is built on every individual's growth and welfare, of which women are inseparable and foundational participants. 
The humanity and qualities that shapes an inclusive society are symbolized by righteousness, hard work, fearlessness and compassion all of which sustain life and civilization. Those members of the society who are marginalized and deprived are often the people who give back these qualities to the society. We are not weak. And these qualities are not a disadvantage but our greatest strength. We at Swari believe that this is what we want for everyone and therefore we promote opportunities to nurture these spaces for women. 

This year we take inspiration from the life and work of Fatima Sheikh, who is widely known as the first Muslim teacher of India. She was an educator and social reformer who was a contemporary colleague of Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule. Together, they worked relentlessly to focus on issues of caste, Sati, female empowerment, widow remarriage, inter-caste marriage and education. She would take up causes she believed in, like co-founding the Indigenous Library in 1848 — which was one of India’s first schools for girls — along with the Phules. Sheikh was born on Jan 9th in 1831 in Pune. She was so driven that despite the social animosity that she faced for speaking up, she would go door-to-door to urge people to get educated at the Indigenous Library, to escape from the clutches of caste-based discrimination. Taking her example, we invite women to participate in this all women led feast and community meal in Channapatna where we honour women leaders, students, teachers and all key members of the community who contribute tirelessly to develop their families and the larger community.