A Modern India’s Sarpanch: Firoz Khan
Born in a Muslim family in Makhtapur, a small village in Khirka Block in Harda District of Madhya Pradesh, Firoz Khan was always concerned about the plight of Muslim women. He saw that Muslim girls had very little education, because of an orthodox thinking, the purdah system, etc, and as compared to other communities, their condition was severely deteriorating. Moreover, a highly restrictive religious dogma has always led to a stunted growth of the Muslim women wherein the knowledge of religious texts is considered sufficient. Working on social issues for past 9 years, and a small stint with an NGO Samavesh, Firoz strongly felt that along with religious learning, women should also acquire knowledge of the world. Thus, he selected 6 small villages: Makhtapur, Morgadi, Runjhun, Devgaon, Charwaha and Temlawadi, with a population of 9000 predominantly Muslim, to bring about a change.
A baseline survey in these 6 villages revealed that only 1 girl was going to college, 1 girl was studying in Standard 12th, and 1 in Standard 11th. Moreover, in the last 2 years, 92 girls dropped out of school, after 7th & 8th. Firoz wanted to see these Muslim girls continue their education, and all the dropouts join mainstream education. He motivated 22 Muslim girls who had dropped out after 10th to join back school. He even filled in their application forms. What came as a surprise was that along with the Muslim girls, 5 girls from Hindu families also joined providing evidence to the rise of consciousness towards education, communal harmony and peace. Firoz says: “Religion does not bar or discourage girl’s education. In fact religion says, that if you wish to pursue education, you can even go abroad to acquire the same”.
Impressed by his approach and commitment towards development, people elected him as the Sarpanch of Makhtapur and Bhawardimal villages earlier this year. During his tenure, besides regular Govt. infrastructure work Sarpanch Firoz’s priority is to also work on women empowerment, gender, caste and poverty issues, bringing equality among all.