Every year on International Women’s Day and Independence Day, we salute and celebrate women who fought their struggles valiantly. However, are these c
Every year on International Women’s Day and Independence Day, we salute and celebrate women who fought their struggles valiantly. However, are these challenges their own or provided by the nation that seems to worship them?
As we strive to take steps towards gender equality in all walks of life – social, political, economical and cultural, the questions that pop up are –
How educated are our girls truly?
Have 73 years of Indian Independence empowered women?
How far are we from gender equality in India?
The answer to all these questions is – we have a long, long way to go. A deep dive into the statistics will shock and horrify you. Women are far away from being empowered and fully educated.
In a report released by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights, a whopping 40% of girls between 15-18 years of age drop out of school. 65% of these girls are occupied with housework.
At an age when all they should be thinking about is education and knowledge, young girls in India are getting married, having children, juggling housework with a family and even going into the fields to help the household income. This is the dismal state of affairs in our country.
While the adult literacy rate in India has been increasing every year and stands at around 73% as of last year, there are approximately 313 million illiterate Indian people. More than half of these (~59%) are women.
The main reason behind this colossal gap in education between men and women are the deep-rooted beliefs that do not allow women to be on the front foot. Whether it is inequality at home or at work, the acceptance towards women achieving more is non-existent on a macro level. This mentality leads to marginalisation.
Other than the psychological angle, the global pandemic has further disrupted decades worth of work towards girls’ education. The top three factors that had been introduced in order to facilitate school for girls have been torn apart by the claws of COVID-19.
1. Mid-day meals
Forbes had reported that having mid-day meals in schools increases the likelihood of girls completing primary school by about 30%. This is because feeding children is a big burden for poverty-stricken families.
In order to get rid of their responsibility towards the girl, parents prefer to get them married. Having the mid-day meal scheme encouraged parents to send their girls to school. However, it has come to an abrupt stop due to the pandemic. Governments are trying their level best to continue the scheme but the implementation on the ground is at its worst.
2. Access and availability
One of the biggest problems faced by school-going girls is the harassment they face en route the school. To avoid eventualities, parents (and even girls themselves) had started avoiding school. After years of hard work, around 96% of rural areas had schools within 1km distance to aid girl education in India.
With all classrooms having gone online, the digital divide is staring us in the face now. It is shocking to know that only around 33% of urban women and 28% of rural women have access to the internet and technology. Patriarchal households allow only men to have the power to use the internet.
This has brought education for girls to a rude halt and moved us back decades. Building digital infrastructure is not a piece of cake. It will take time, effort, money and the inclination to allow the growth of women.
Kerala tops the list in India for the education of girls with 60% attendance at the pre-primary level and 99.5% at the high school level (Class 11 & 12). Uttar Pradesh ranks last with a performance score of around 36%.
3. Funds and Policies
Prior to the pandemic, there were many policies and funds that worked towards empowering women through education. However, with emergency funds required for medical infrastructure, equipment and quarantine centres, this has been moved to the back burner.
Funds previously allocated to education for girls have now been reshuffled for COVID response and relief. Secondly, with loss of jobs, women are helping their male counterparts in bringing home the bread and butter.
In such a scenario, going back to education will be very difficult. Once again, education for girls will be considered expensive. Moving forward from here can be very tough.
We agree there seems to be a lot of bad news but that is no reason to lose hope.
In order to move ahead, the only strategy is to assess, recreate and change what can be changed. Some of the changes that could be catalysts are –
- Bridging the digital gap through the Beti Padhao Beti Bachao campaign
- Allocating funds and infrastructure that can promote and facilitate girl education
- Providing training to women who are financially affected due to the pandemic
- Reinforcing the need to educate girls through examples of successful businesswomen
- Creating a safe, nurturing and motivating environment for girls to study and thrive in
Working our way towards improvement will require harmony, coherence and a collaborative effort towards women empowerment.
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