The importance of the girl child
A recent news report revealed that not a single girl was born in 132 villages in Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand in the previous three months. Census 2011 had indicated that the child sex ratio of girls to boys (0-6 years) had deteriorated to 919 girls per thousand boys from 927 girls per 1000 boys in 2001. The adverse sex ratio is the result of a patriarchal mindset due to which families do not want to give birth to a daughter and raise her to fulfil her potential. How can we convince people of the importance of the girl child in India? How can we make everybody celebrate daughters?
Girl Child Protection- the need for Beti Zindabad
The struggle of a girl child begins even before the day she is conceived. In India, female foeticide is a worrying practice, as cheap abortion technology allows households to exercise their preference for sons over daughters. She is ‘lucky’ if she is allowed to be born. Even after birth, the girl child faces discrimination and oppression. She is not provided with proper nutrition compared to her male siblings, her education is not given much importance and in many cases, parents prefer that their sons continue schooling, and want their daughters to stay at home and do household work. After marriage, the trials faced by women do not end as she continues to face oppression and even violence in her marital home.
We, at ActionAid Association, launched Beti Zindabad –a nation-wide campaign to tackle the adverse sex ratio. The campaign has grown since its inception and come to address a wide variety of issues of violence against women, the need to recognize and celebrate women’s place in the world of work, and efforts to ensure women’s access to the property, including housing and agricultural land.
Through all our interventions at ActionAid Association, we seek to reach out to the women in the communities we work with. We encourage them to take up positions of leadership in the family and the community. When we support the creation of collectives or community-based organisations in these communities or in our partner civil society we actively look for strong women community leaders and empower them to take up key positions in these groups. Our allies and partners are encouraged to take pride in their daughters and value the contributions of the women in their communities. This can be seen through programmes like the Beti Utsav where communities celebrate the birth of a girl child amongst them.
The Government is also concerned with declining child sex ratio and in 2015 it launched ” Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” Scheme, to create awareness on the need to protect the girl child and focus on their education. We at ActionAid have welcomed this scheme and wish to support the government’s initiatives through our interventions. We seek to work with communities to celebrate the girl child and ensure the protection of the girl child.
How can we save girl children in India?
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India has said, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” A country that empowers women empowers every individual! We have to start with protecting the girl child, ensuring that her birth is greeted with joy and she receives all the care and love needed to grow to her full potential. As a woman, we need to work to ensure that she gets every opportunity to realise her potential. By celebrating, protecting and educating the girl child, we empower her. By empowering our daughters we empower their communities which means empowering the nation! We must start making significant steps in the following directions:
- Spread awareness and change mindsets to ensure that communities and families welcome and celebrate daughters.
- Education for all girl children.
- Create a safe environment for all women and support women’s resistance to violence.
- Mobilize society, private enterprise and the government to recognize and celebrate women in the world of work.
- Recognize, redistribute and reduce care work.
- Ensure decent work, fair and equal wages and a safe working environment for women.
- Ensure that women have access to the property, including house and land.
Why it is important to save and educate girls
In order to achieve true women empowerment, it is important that we begin with the girl children. This is because girls of today are the women of tomorrow. The role of social welfare organizations is critical here as it is not possible for the government to reach every nook and corner of the country. As the aware citizens, we can support organizations which work for the eradication of female infanticide and women empowerment. Donations to them serve two purposes: driving change in the society and providing tax benefit to the donor.
Some yardsticks of women empowerment are:
- Helping women carve a positive self-image and increase their confidence level
- Enabling them to develop the ability to think critically.
- Ensuring that they have equal participation in decision making, whether it’s in the family or at the community level
- Providing economic independence to women
The mindset that a girl is a liability needs to be changed and this requires happening at the grass root level. While spreading awareness is critical, there is a need of stricter laws in place which deter people from resorting to female foeticide.
The role of education is extremely important here and goes a long way in empowering women. And the process of education has to begin early in life. More and more girl children need to be sent to school, provided quality and holistic education. Numerous benefits come with educating girls the right way. Educated girls are able to take the right decisions in life. For example, when an educated girl falls sick, she will have better understanding and awareness to avail proper healthcare services. At the same time, a society in which girls are educated will see less child marriages, decreased levels of poverty and heightened participation of women in socio-economic processes. Educating a girl has far-reaching impacts. It is rightly said that when a woman is educated, an entire generation benefits from it.
There is an urgent need to change this archaic mindset of the patriarchal Indian society which views girls as liabilities. It needs to be established that girls are in no way less than boys. When given the right chances to nurture their talent and skills, they have it in them to excel in different areas of life. It is therefore imperative that both government and non-government organizations work in cohesion to spread the message of saving and educating the girl child. You can donate online to NGOs to lend your support to this movement.