By Mayuri, a fellow of Teach For India:
You will hear a lot about the government’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save girl child, educate a girl child) scheme here and there. The scheme aims at providing better welfare services to India’s girl children. But are all the little girls in our country receiving the education they deserve? Are all their aspirations being given wings, or are they crushed under the pressure of this society.
A year ago, while I was voluntarily teaching a few kids, I asked a girl in my class what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer still haunts me. She blatantly said that “I will help my mother in work and soon get married off.” Mind you, she was just 13 years old, and that was her reality. That was what happened to all her elder female relatives, and she expected nothing different for herself. I realized that she had no aspirations at all, and nor did anyone show or tell her that she could be somebody more than just a homemaker. If this was the answer of a girl who lives in the fast-paced city of dreams called Mumbai, I can’t even imagine what answers I will get if I ask the same question to the girls in semi-urban or rural parts of the country. Her answer always made me question what made my education better than theirs. It’s not like they don’t go to school. They do. But, still, why don’t our girls think beyond the four walls of a house?
I think there are a lot of causes for this. But most of them stem from the mentality of our society. Even as a kid, I was always told that you should learn doing this and that or else your in-laws won’t approve of you. Maybe it was just as a joke, but yes, a lot of girls are conditioned to these thoughts of getting married off one day and their role in the family of taking care of everyone and everything else possible. Not that these thoughts are bad, but why only these thoughts is what I ask. If our boys are conditioned to the thoughts that you need to work hard, earn money for the family, become this or become that in the future, why can’t our girls be exposed to such thoughts as well? Why can’t all our kids be equally taught to believe in themselves to become someone more than just a family member and have their own identity in this world?
I guess, since I was exposed to all such thoughts, I could aspire to be someone more. And this is what I feel is lacking in our education, whether that education is at school or at home. We need to widen our thoughts and mindsets and teach our girls to dream big and work relentlessly towards it, come what may. And I hope that when all our teachers, parents and influencers first teach and tell our kids to aspire for something bigger and not stereotype gender roles is when we won’t have to face the problem of gender inequality.