Kochi, Mar 25: Presenting the 'Vanitha Woman of the Year Award 2007' to activist Daya Bai, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi stressed the need for a change in the Indian education system.
Speaking after presenting the award yesterday to the fiery activist, who left her native place in Kerala to make her home among the gond tribals in Madhya Pradesh, Dr Bedi said the present education system was shaping individuals who were not sure of their purpose in life. ''There is something wrong in our education and we need to redefine it so that people have a purpose in life other than accumulating material goods,'' she said.
Holding parents and teachers squarely responsible for shaping individuals, she said faulty upbringing produced shaky individuals who were not sure of their values in life.
''There is a contradiction in our education. That is why we have highly literate girls quietly agreeing to the dowry system,'' she added.
Dr Bedi, who is the first woman IPS officer in the country, said there was a need for women to network among themselves to tackle social evils. ''If women get together and take a march to a police station, the policemen will run away, scared of women power,'' she claimed.
Earlier, in her acceptance speech, Daya Bai, who was born as Mercy Mathew, but changed her name to be one with the Gond tribals, said she was more used to facing police cases, death threats and abuse than receiving awards.
The gritty activist, who started her acceptance speech by reading out the Preamble to the Constitution, recalled how she joined a convent as she wanted to serve people but was not satisfied with the life of a nun. Higher education degrees like a Masters in Social Work (MSW) also did not satify her as it was too ''urban and western-oriented''.
It was only when she went to the Chhindwara area of Madhya Pradesh for her research work among the Gond tribals and found a purpose.
''The headman of the village asked why I had come to live with them, who were like monkeys in a jungle. I was taken aback that the Gonds, who had ruled the area for 11 centuries, had been injected with so much inferiority. That gave a direction to my life as I felt the need to bring back the lost human identity and dignity to them,'' she added.
Living as a daily wage labourer among the tribals, Daya Bai has been helping to organise the tribals to fight for their economic and social rights for more than past 20 years.
Renowned journalist Leela Menon, Vanitha Chief Editor Prema Mammen Mathew and recipient of the 'Vanitha Woman of the Year Award 2006' Dr P Bhanumathi were among those present at the function.
'Vanitha', brought out by the Malayala Manorama group, is India's largest selling women's magazine.