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Do Indian Fathers Think Investing Money In Their Daughters’ Education Is A Waste?

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

In the recently released Global Hunger Index 2020, India ranked 94 out of 107 countries, lying under the ‘serious’ hunger category. While poor implementation and failure in monitoring are held responsible for non-performing nutrition programs, the lack of maternal education is one of the crucial factors that make the situation worse.

Moreover, education plays an essential role in how society performs on different parameters. Girls’ education, in particular, enhances the living standards of the family and the entire community, in the long run. 

Today, the government and the members of the community, in the form of societies and NGOs are tediously working towards expanding the outreach of education amongst girls. While the numbers of girls getting school education have improved relatively, most of them still have to face struggles to continue their school education, especially in rural India and amongst the low-income group families.

Gender Roles And Girls’ Education 

Chanchal who lives in a village in Aligarh district of western Uttar Pradesh and attends a nearby government secondary school, says that she is lucky that her parents are allowing her to go to school. Representational image.

The shackles of patriarchy are so strong that even after 70 years since the enforcement of one of the most advanced legal documents of the time — the Constitution of India, we have been unable to break them fully.

Even though the Constitution envisioned social justice to all Indians, our girls still have to face discrimination on grounds of them being “extrinsic money” or paraya dhan a concept that materialises women, making them a commodity that is to be transactedConsequently, most of the parents lying in the low-income group category are reluctant to invest in their daughters’ education.

Chanchal who lives in a village in Aligarh district of western Uttar Pradesh and attends a nearby government secondary school, says that she is lucky that her parents are allowing her to go to school. “We are not expected to excel at studies but should know how to perform household routines so that when we will get married and get to our homes we will be able to handle all the work singlehandedly. It would make our in-laws happy. We won’t give them any opportunity to complain,” says Chanchal.

While having a conversation with several village girls, I realised that most of them were raised considering their paternal home as a temporary or foster home, where they must get trained for their permanent home — their in-laws’ place.

Moreover, for many people, investing in their daughters’ education is considered a wastage of money; they would rather choose to save up for their marriage. “More money for dowry will land her getting married to a well earning husband, rather than her being more educated,” says the father of a school going girl who requested to remain anonymous.

COVID-19 And Patriarchal Interferences

In my recent association with an educational society in western Uttar Pradesh that provides free education to girls, I found out that the school has provided tabs and data for free so that they can have access to online classes, while schools are shut amidst the pandemic.

Interestingly, patriarchal interferences started playing disruptive roles in the digital education of the girls as they already do, even in the absence of a pandemic. A considerable number of girl students started complaining about the devices being given to their brothers. They were told that the boys were the ones suffering from disruptions in education, and the girls didn’t need them.

Therefore, the school had to ensure that such technical equipment and support were not taken away from their students just because they are girls. 

Second Largest Economy? At What Cost?

The world is about to enter the fourth revolution led by automation. India is projected to have the second-largest GDP overtaking the USA by 2050. However, it is all futile if our girls still need to struggle to receive basic education. Even after 70 years since the day when the Constitution of India was enacted, we are not able to ensure social, economic, and political justice to half of our population.

If we are striving to become a giant economy across the world at the cost of the majority of people sleeping hungry every day, leading to the wasting of millions of children in India, we can continue the way we are going. 

But, if we choose to educate every girl, without even one of them struggling to access quality education, we will not only become the biggest global economic power but also a place where no one remains hungry, no child is stunted, and every individual has equal access to opportunities and a healthy environment to prosper.

Thus, by making education to every girl possible, within a few decades, we can make India a place where every human can live a life with dignity and not merely survive.

*The arguments and claims in this article are based on empirical experiences that I had visiting some areas in western Uttar Pradesh. Patriarchy exists in some form or the other in almost every part of India. However, the extent to which it is exerted on the people can vary geographically, depending on caste, religion, class, etc., in the area in context. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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