Building a Better
Place for Her

About 50% of the Indian society
comprises of females. In a social setting both should be given equal respect,
but unfortunately the ‘second sex’ is reduced to stereotypical roles and
orthodox norms. The societal discourse has turned a blind eye to modern
ventures when more skilled/efficient women are entering the workforce and
capitalizing on economic opportunities.

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On the occasion of National Girl
Child Day (24th January 2018), you and I must take pledge to make
the world around us a better place for girls from different walks of life. In
such a short span of time, this celebration offers more support and new
opportunities to young minds of girl children within the country. As a result,
it creates more awareness in the masses about the problems and inequalities
faced by the girl child in the society. Inequality of girl child is itself a
vast problem that is visible in areas like inequality in education, nutrition,
legal rights, medical care, protection, honour, child marriage and so many. The
placards, posters and protests speak out the language of women empowerment,
save girl child, educate girl children, bring back our girls from slavery. The promise
of good, safe and healthy life is all she asks and can be delivered and
sustained by us.

India, the state-nation portrays
a complex picture especially with the girl child. Every state in the country
offers vivid statistics in terms of child-sex ratio, education, health,
empowerment and other parameters. A balanced equation cannot be set, if in one
corner of the country girls are not allowed to go to school while in a distant
part a girl becomes a top-ranking IAS officer. The public policies and academic
scholarships act as a balm to these ailments, but then the problem is deep
rooted.

Let’s start with the child sex
ration, Haryana the features in the bottom of the rank list is gradually
picking up with 834 girls against 1,000 boys in 2011 (Census 2011). 1
Post their birth, the next challenge is to break the brick/mud walls and make
way for schools and space for school textbooks. Often the hour long (or less)
walk to school is nothing less than consistent torture and pervasive
humiliation.  School is an avenue of
knowledge under the guidance of teachers with basic infrastructure like
toilets, drinking water facility, playground and others.

The Pupil- Teacher ratio is
considerably bad in rural and tribal areas, where one teacher is teaching 1
lakh students (a report tabled in the Parliament) without a proper classroom
and a blackboard.2 Consequently,
more than half of the school children in grade 5 are not able to read a two
level text. In terms of sanitation, the figures are very shocking with
reference to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of 2013 states that 53.3%
of useable toilets for girl children in schools and 47% schools in India still
do not have separate toilets for girls.3

From the same report, 47.9% of
girl school children drop out before they reach Grade X.  The reason for drop outs are many, the most
significant factor is early marriage. 
The World Bank Report recently published a report in 2017 stating that
almost 40% of women in the age group of 18-22 were married off before the age
of 18.4
They are also at a risk of facing violence, abuse and exposure to HIV/AIDS and
other sexually transmitted diseases and are also exposed to underage motherhood
as adolescents.

In 2015-2016, an estimated 4.5
million girls between the age of 15 and 16 years were pregnant or had already
become mothers, according to data from the National Family Health Survey 4
(NFHS 4).5  An article on IndiaSpend in July 2017
reported that over the next seven years, India could save $5 billion (Rs 33,500
crore) in healthcare and related costs if it eliminates child marriage and
early childbirth. Additionally, more mothers (63%) who had completed secondary
education, or higher levels of education, had at least four antenatal visits,
compared to those who has no education (28%) or had completed only primary
education (45%) in 2015-2016(NHFS 4).

Indian women have the 11th lowest
rate of workforce participation in the world (27% versus a global 50%) and
India is in the lowest ranked group of countries for gender equality in the
2016 Human Development Report.6 We
can ensure more women entering the workforce if only requisite skills and
access to education is provided to them. As of now, the population of Indian
girls in the age group of 6-17 in 2016 was more than 130 million. According to
the Education Statistics released by MHRD, the number of girls enrolled in
classes 1 to 12, is approximately 120 million. The gap can be estimated at
anywhere near 8 to 10 million.

To mitigate this division,
education is the only opportunity and a sacred option. It helps them making
informed choices and develops a responsible stature within the household in the
decision making process. An educated woman not only uplifts the family from
drudgery but can also contribute to the economic growth of the country. The day
when one more girl drops out of school, or another women is denied a job
opportunity because of her gender or lack of academic/work experience, we as a
nation have a long way to go before establishing a gender balanced status-quo.

 Nations across the world must allocate atleast
6% of their GDP to education. Since, 1968, India promised to attain this
benchmark but currently spends approximately 3.7%. The World Bank statistics of
2012 shows that countries like Brazil and South Africa were spending at least
6% of their GDP on education.7
There is a serious need for introspection with regard to our education policy;
spending and target group and taking the right course will help in churning out
a positive picture that can set an example for the other nations to follow.

 

 

1 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=103437
and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_states_and_territories_ranking_by_sex_ratio

2 https://www.ndtv.com/education/the-teacher-s-crisis-in-india-proper-training-recruitment-need-of-hour-1759070
and https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Over-1-lakh-schools-in-India-have-just-1-teacher/articleshow/53608274.cms

 

3 http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/4mGyWWjgR7UctoW6FdB94H/Realtime-digital-reporting-of-toilets-can-bring-girls-to-sc.html

4
Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report, June 2017- https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/eicm_global_conference_edition_june_27_final.pdf

5 http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/girls-not-brides-how-education-can-end-child-marriage-early-pregnancy-117072100180_1.html

6 https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/day-of-the-girl-child-progress-report-india-has-moved-forward-in-empowering-girls-but-still-lags-much-of-the-world/

7 http://www.livemint.com/Education/tj0GgGojuEbwLN1SCc8eSJ/Indias-education-spending-needs-a-course-on-accountability.html