At Apna Ghar, we recognize the power of women all year long, so what's not to love about a month dedicated to exactly that. March is Women's History Month. All month long, Apna Ghar will be celebrating by honoring women who have worked tirelessly to transform the lives of others.
Today, we feature a conversation between Kanta Khipple, one of the five women who founded Apna Ghar, and her daughter, Ranjana Khipple Khan, who is carrying on the family legacy.
Four of Apna Ghar's Founders at the 20th Anniversary celebration.
Ranjana Bhargava (top left), Prem Sharma (top right), Lee Magalaya (bottom left), and Kanta Khipple (bottom right) (Missing from the picture is the late Francis Kung)
Ranjana Khan: Hi Mom. I've been asked to interview you on behalf on Apna Ghar to celebrate Women's History Month. I am thrilled to interview you and know more about what made you who you are today.
Kanta Khipple: Thank you. I appreciate it and I extend my thanks to you and Apna Ghar.
Ranjana: Mom, I know that you have devoted most of your life to social and community work. Please please tell me what made you go in that direction?
Kanta Khipple: Actually, when I was growing up, India was fighting to gain independence from the British. It was a time when everyone was thinking of our country, and of our communities. I used to hear political speeches of our political leaders, such as Gandhi Ji and Jawaharlal Nehru, and I felt very inspired by their words, their resolve and their activism. After independence, there was a lot to be done. I was very young at the time, and newly married, but I felt very inspired and I really felt that each of us had an obligation to work hard, that each of us could make a big difference, and that collectively we had to build India. I believe that is when the initial seeds of activism and social work may have been planted in me.
Ranjana Khan: So the fact that it was a politically significant time in our country inspired you to serve the country?
Kanta Khipple: Yes, you could say that. So right after independence, we moved from Lahore to New Delhi, and I enrolled in Delhi School of Social Work. I was amongst the first batch of women graduates of the school. I was thrilled with this achievement because with this degree, I got my first job with the Family Planning Association of India. As you might know, at the time, India's had a population problem, and the newly formed government focused on need for family planning and health education in rural India. So my job as a social worker was to visit villages around metropolitan Delhi and educate the rural women about health and hygiene, and about family planning. This is when I became closely involved with the lives of Indian women and saw how vulnerable they were in the fully male dominated culture. It was an eye opener. These women really opened up to me, and I felt I formed a real connection with them. It became very clear to me that I had a role to play in uplifting their sense of self and dignity. It was a very rewarding experience, and paved the way for me to build on this experience during subsequent years of my career.
Ranjana Khan: I find this very interesting. How did your family impact your work and your thinking?
Kanta Khipple: I must say that your dad was extremely supportive of my work. He is one of few men I know who truly believed in equality of women, even at that time. In fact, he himself authored and published a book on the condition of women in India, and how they played a subservient role to men. His liberated thinking inspired me even more. At the same time, my mother was also a role model for me. She was a single mother, who brought up her two children - myself and my younger brother. In pre-partition India, she went to school and got her master's degree in education, and became a teacher, and then later a principal of a girls' school. I was really impressed and impacted by her values, her strength and her determination. Even though it was at times challenging for her, she was determined to succeed on her own, and to provide a good education for both her children, and not just her son. She was an exceptional woman, and she was an exceptional role model for me.
Ranjana Khan: I remember nani well. I agree that she was an exceptional woman, and I feel very proud to come from a family with strong and powerful women-women who didn't just do as our culture would expect of them, but women who valued education, who got out and achieved their goals, and chose to give back to their communities in very simple, sincere ways. So, mom, you have in turn inspired me and I am so glad to celebrate you and nani for Women's History Month.