One of Sindh’s leading lights, Dadi Leelawati Harchandani, aka Dadi Leelan, passed away this week at the age of 101 in Hyderabad. Thousands will mourn her death because of the role she played in educating young women of the province and also trying to reform the province’s class-ridden society. A true daughter of Sindh, Dadi Leelan was a multi-talented lady who first became famous owing to her interest in music but later focused on issues that related to education and reform, championing the cause of women empowerment. To do this meant great personal sacrifices throughout her life. Also, unlike many from her community, Dadi Leelan chose to stay on in her birthplace Pakistan instead of migrating to India and till the very end she was actively committed to the principles she believed in and she fought for them.
It is personalities like Dadi Leelan that help create awareness and bring change in societies. A lot has changed in Sindh province thanks to the hard work of Dadi Leelan and many other towering personalities. We can see more girls enrolled in schools and better opportunities open to them when they graduate. At the same time we see that in other areas little has changed. The incidents of violence against women as well as active discrimination and harrassment continue unabated. Sindh has a poor record when it comes to honour killings as well as using women to settle tribal disputes. More recently we have seen a rise in incidents of kidnapping of women belonging to the Hindu community. Given this state of affairs, one can say that the work started by Dadi Leelan is far from over and needs to be taken more seriously. As people of different backgrounds and positions mourn Dadi Leelan’s death, we can do well to ask those in power what they have done to honour Dadi Leelan. We must continue to fight for women’s rights in the province so that the legacy of Dadi Leelan stays alive for many more years to come.