Education And Impact On Indian Women

Educating women is critical for socio-economic development of individuals and the nation.

Go, Get Education. Be self -reliant, Be industrious. Work, gather wisdom and riches. All gets lost without knowledge. 

These are the words of Savitribai Phule, the first woman teacher in India who, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule also set up one of the first schools for girls in 1848. Savitribai, along with many foresighted reformers knew that education was the best way to empower any class of people who had been traditionally kept from power. Savitri, who was married off at the age of 11, was educated at home by her husband. She along with brave women like Fatima Sheikh and Rokeya Sultan  championed girls’ education since they knew the value of knowledge.  

Educating women is critical for socio-economic development of individuals and the nation. Lack of educational opportunities and barriers to completing 12 years of education costs countries between 15 trillion and 30 trillion dollar according to a report, 'Missed Opportunities - The High cost of not educating girls', released by the World Bank in 2018. According to the report, educated women lead to healthier families and better development indices. According to the Mckinsey Global Institute report on Gender parity, India can add $770 billion to its economy by 2025 by encouraging girls to study and participate in the workforce. As per the recent ASER ( Annual status of Education Report of 2019), ten years ago in 2008, nationally, more than 20 per cent of girls in the 15 to 16 age group were not enrolled in school. In 2018, this figure has decreased to 13.5 per cent. Things are looking up for girl’s education, but slowly. 

As a part of work with GLOW - Growing Leadership of Women and our non-profit initiative, 'My Daughter is Precious', the impact of educating and training young women has been studied. Almost all urban families we met, send their girls to school to complete primary and secondary schooling. But many girls from low income families drop out after Class 10 due to a variety of reasons-financial, social and personal.  We provide scholarships to pay for college fees of young girls and mentor them to complete their education and be job ready. 

Education positively impacts the  self- confidence and self- esteem of the young girls. Girls do well in school. They have outperformed boys in the CBSE Board exams for the last five years. Knowledge and intellectual stimulation makes them feel that they are using their skills and are on the path to becoming productive citizens. There is a change in the way they walk, talk and carry themselves in public. Education gives them freedom from shame, fear and restrictions. 

In India, the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu with literacy rates of 92 per cent and 73 per cent have had a decline in population below poverty levels to 7 per cent and 11 per cent while the states with low female literacy rates like UP and Bihar (42 per cent and 33 per cent respectively ) have 29 per cent and 33 per cent of the population who live in poverty. Education gives everyone, but especially girls, the ability to make good decisions and informed choices. The ASER also shows a positive correlation between the mother’s education level and the child’s education. 

Educated women have fewer and healthier children. Educated women can create more economic value. They help to raise  a more capable new generation and grow the economy.  

Educated women create a much bigger social impact as leaders. The entire society knows of the amazing women scientists of ISRO who worked on the Mars Mission who used their education wisely and well. Every woman who has been successful in business, arts, sports or science has done so through a sound education. Ashweetha Shetty, the daughter of a bidi roller from rural Tamil Nadu, not only changed her life through education but has set up the Bodhi Tree Foundation to enable rural youth to find gainful employment. Sweta Agarwal, a girl from a small town in Bengal became an IAS officer thanks to her parents’ insistence and support for her higher education. Many women have escaped the vicious cycle of poverty through education and are helping others. Many of the girls we mentor and fund earn additional income by giving tuitions to other children in their locality. Anjali wants to become an IAS officer and help the girls in her hometown. Ranjini, from a village in Bihar wants to become a teacher and a role model for other girls.  

A significant change was observed in one of the girls we supported. Sujipriya was a first year student in Chennai who was going to drop out of college since her parents could not pay the fees. They were already hugely in debt. SujiPriya was shy, spoke little and had a fearful air about her. After My daughter is Precious stepped in and paid the fees, also assuring her of support to complete her education if she did well in academics. She became more confident, spoke in English, participated and won in several extracurricular activities and encouraged other girls in her neighborhood. Now, after graduating successfully, SujiPriya is confidently pursuing her Masters degree in commerce and is studying to become a teacher. 

During one of the family visits for My Daughter is Precious, visitors asked a father if he would allow his daughter to complete school. 'Yes,' he said. “Education is one thing no one can take away from you. It is the one thing I can give my daughter that will be with her for the rest of her life.”  

Education is the one thing that families need to invest in for their daughters.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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