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Making India A Better Place For Girls With Equal Opportunity In Education

There are many more individuals, corporates and NGOs working silently, ceaselessly towards the cause of girl child education and helping the nation overcome the challenge of making India a better place for girls with equal opportunity in education.

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Making India a better place for girls with equal opportunity in education.

On a recent trip to Pune, my attention was drawn to a slogan in Marathi – ‘Mulgi shikli, pragati zali’, on a big sticker right above the auto driver, where one usually sees a devotional picture. Intrigued, I asked him what it meant. He told me that it meant that educating girls assured progress, and started telling me about how he had two girls and he had ensured that they get good education even if it meant driving the auto in two shifts. While one of his daughters was doing a pathology assistant course, the other was working as an accountant in a MNC. He said the daughter working in the MNC had taken a home loan and they would soon be moving into a one BHK from their room in a chawl. For him, the government slogan was much more than just words, it was the way he had lived his life, making sure of a better future for not just for his daughters, but also ensuring that they contribute to the nation.

Unfortunately, the auto-rickshaw driver is an exception. It has been over 170 years since Jyotiba Phule, the pioneer of women’s education in India, opened the first school for girls in 1848 and we still need a Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The Act which came into effect on April 1, 2010 upholds the Fundamental Right of children between the ages of six and fourteen to education and casts a legal obligation on the Government to ensure this. However even this Act has not managed to achieve the required aims with a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights' (NCPCR) report earlier this year indicating that 40% of adolescent girls lack access to education with the majority being forced to stay at home to help in domestic chores. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programthat was launched in January 2015 to increase awareness on saving the girl child and promote girl child education is also struggling to positively affect girl's education. 

While the presence of support at the political level is important and political commitment has been demonstrated through the launch of various schemes, there also needs to be a change at the grassroots level. This is one reason why schemes do not translate into action and have yet to make a difference at the school level. A report released by the Pratham Education Foundation last year indicated that in some states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the proportion of girls in the age group 11-14 who are out of school remains greater than 8%.

Gender inequality still exists when it comes to education. Although school enrolments are on an upward trend, a survey by Save the Children shows that the number of girls who discontinue education before completing Class 5 is 24.4%, increasing to 41.3% at the level of Class 8. While the affluent and the middle class are enjoying the fruits of India’s growth, it is in the lower-income households that domestic duties are still the girls’ responsibilities with the girls having to take care of household chores and their younger siblings while their parents are working. 

Other reasons especially in rural areas include the perception of the journey to the school or the classroom environment as unsafe, poor infrastructure especially lack of toilets for girls, and distance from the home. Early marriage is another factor with parents wanting to get a girl married off once she enters the teen years with over 45% of women being married by 18 years of age.   

One of the ways to overcome this hurdle is to make people aware of the importance of education as a tool that will enable women and girls to not just participate in decisions that affect their lives but also contribute positively to the family and improve their social status. It is essential that the girl child be looked at as an individual with the same rights as a boy and not as someone who will get married and move away to another family. Girls usually outperform boys in the board exams, giving an indication of the potential that the girls can achieve if given the opportunity. Today, there are many role models to inspire like world class sportswomen who have made it to the top from a village background by sheer dint of hard work like P. T. Usha, Mary Kom, Karnam Malleswari, Deepika Kumari and Hima Das. There are women like Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Vinita Bali, Renu Sud Karnad, Renuka Ramnath and others who have made it to the top of the business world to motivate other girls to strive for the top. 

But for the girl child who want to emulate her idols, efforts like the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao have to be bolstered by the private sector who can effectively use CSR initiatives to promote the cause of education of the girl child. It is heartening to see corporates support innovative initiatives to further the cause of girl child education. Some examples are M&M’s Nanhi Kali project that works towards educating the girl child and has an objective of providing 10 years of quality education to girls from economically disadvantaged families.

We also see driven individuals like Rana Uppalapati, businessman and international skater who is skating 6000 km across the country on skates to cover the Indian Golden Quadrilateral over the next 90 days. Flagged off from the Titan watch factory at Hosur, this ECHO - ‘Educate to carry her onwards’ initiative intends to raise funds for the education of 25,000 underprivileged girl children and create awareness among 6 lakh children on child safety, especially on ‘good touch and bad’. CII-YI, IIMPACT, Nanhi Kali and Titan will carry out 6000 awareness sessions for children on ‘Good Touch and Bad Touch’ as part of ECHO programme. 

There are many more individuals, corporates and NGOs working silently, ceaselessly towards the cause of girl child education and helping the nation overcome the challenge of making India a better place for girls with equal opportunity in education. After all, as Nelson Mandela put it, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’

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


Tags assigned to this article:
girl education child rights Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

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