India is known for its rampant female foeticide as well as severe inequalities towards women and girls. It accompanies the various complex issues pervading our country’s socio-economic problems such as poverty, caste etc. This situation is not only prevalent in our country but the world over. It is obvious that equality between men and women can measure a country’s status – most important being the equality between girls and boys from a really young age. We cannot productively assess the female child’s rights without considering the socio-economic status of women in that society. After all, societies raise the child as per expectations of what the child would grow up to be. This is more prevalent in the developing world – where the resources are scarce.
This reality around me has made me introspect on my stance towards gender relations. I realised that gender equality is the way to go forward and tried my best to inculcate these values. We must strive for equal opportunities to all in general. Given our current scenario equal opportunities between girls and boys is of paramount importance. In this struggle, we must realise that education plays a vital role. Education opens the door to many opportunities while making the person aware of their rights. As awareness about one’s fundamental rights and duties stems from basic literacy and knowledge.
Empirical evidence and mere common sense states that early education makes the required changes in shaping society towards progress. Girls’ education is crucial to womankind as well as the nation itself. Better educated and empowered women lead to a reformation of society and far more options for employment. However, it is sad that while the state of education in many parts of the world is abysmal, it is nearly inaccessible to girl children at large.
The reasons for these can be cited from poverty, lack of resources to the larger framework of patriarchy itself. I’ve heard many people from different socio-economic strata stating that investing in a girl child’s education is a waste of money. The same people have do not think twice when investing for their son’s education or their daughter’s marriage. The fact that people would rather spend on their daughter’s marriage expenses or dowry instead of education is very disheartening. Social awareness is the only known tool for changing such a mindset. However, it is fortunate that the situation for girls is becoming better and a lot of places in the world have female children are now at par with their male counterparts.
When it comes to India and other developing countries, I would say that there are various ways to counter the obstacles for girl children in terms of gaining equal access to opportunities. The government has a significant role to play in this as they have the resources to build the required infrastructure and spread awareness. The few main reasons for many girls not attending school is lack of access, infrastructure, safety concerns, consideration for feminine hygiene and family support.
This doesn’t help when there’s outright social discrimination within the school walls. Most of all an improvement in the basic infrastructure of the school building with decent functioning toilets for teenage girls is needed especially in rural areas, along with ensuring their safety on their way to schools – which is one of the reasons parents are reluctant to send their girls to school. With this, we can hope for a decent and egalitarian education to children throughout the country.
The improvement in safety measures for girl children has improved the attendance rate by a large margin. Schools must spread awareness against child sexual and physical abuse and help them to report these as well. If girls are enabled to protect themselves from sexual predators, they will not fear taking up bigger challenges in their life. Governments have to take care of this aspect when it comes to government schooling (since most of the poor children avail government schooling). We must also look forward to sensitising the faculty members to make sure that no discrimination is meted out to girls. This will take time, but it can be achieved.
The sad part of this is that a lot of girls lag in schooling due to menstrual problems after the age of 12 to 14. It is usually due to extreme taboos or lack of affordable sanitary napkins. The government must make sanitary pads or other feminine hygiene products much more accessible and educate girls on maintaining their health. Iron and nutrient deficiency is a severe problem among girls of menstruating age. Remedies to this can be ensured with the help of vitamin supplements and decent meals in schools.
Last but not least, social media campaigns must be carried out along with financial schemes. A few Indian states are trying to tackle this problem by introducing Girl Child Education schemes. For Example, the state of Telangana has launched the scheme “Bangaru Thalli” – where the government helps in subsidising the girl child’s education from kindergarten to graduation. This has improved the attendance of girls in schools by a large margin. An introduction to a variety of courses and vocational course from high school would also help in the attainment of economic capabilities in general. It is essential to make people aware of the economic potential a girl achieves when she becomes more educated.
While things are gradually getting better for an average girl child, we still have a lot more to accomplish. After all, it is 2018! We can never call ourselves truly advanced if we neglect the aspect of equality between all genders.