Demand for University by Women in One of India’s Poorest Districts

by Vins

Nearly 15,000 women in the age group 16-24 years wrote to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in February 2024 to demand a dedicated university in their district, Nuh. This is not a new ask; the girls have written to the chief minister as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times in the past too.

The petitioners drew attention to the fact that only four percent of women in their district made it to universities. The district, considered one of the poorest in the country, lacks higher education institutions and training centers, especially for women. It has the highest dropout rate and lowest age of marriage in Haryana, according to The Tribune.

“Every year, we hear announcements about big roads being constructed and new cities being developed but our district still strives for basic things like having a university,” said Fatima Chowdhary. “While men get the opportunity to move away to pursue higher education, we do not,” she added.

This story was only covered by The Tribune, a Punjab-based English language daily newspaper, but not by any corporate or mainstream news organizations in India. Even the article in The Tribune is a short daily story that doesn’t fully address the larger context and the full scope of relevant perspectives from the petitioners, experts, or the government.

In 2023, when the women sent 10,000 postcards to PM Modi to make their request for a university, it was covered – albeit superficially – by corporate media including The Times of India.

In 2018, the central government’s think tank NITI Aayog listed Nuh as the most underdeveloped of India’s 739 districts. Nuh is also the only Muslim-majority district in Haryana and has been at the center of communal tension.

On March 10, the state’s chief minister announced development projects worth Rs 700 crore [roughly USD 89.5 million] in the district. A university for women was not one of them. However, this focus on Nuh illustrates its importance as a political and ideological battleground ahead of the Lok Sabha election later this year.

Source: Sumedha Sharma, “Nuh Women Seek Varsity in State Budget, Write to CM,” The Tribune, February 17, 2024.

Student Researcher: Tarini Mehta (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)

Faculty Evaluator: Ankita Kumar (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)