Women and girls in slums mostly don’t get the privilege of education in India. Their families or communities don’t support them in this cause. When the family does not have enough finance to provide education to all of their children, there the preference is given to boys. This way most of the women are not educated and they are not able to provide it to their daughters as well. So, in this vicious cycle education of most of the girls gets neglected. The situation is so deteriorating that many girls even lack basic literacy and numeric skills.
“I want to study and become a teacher. But I don’t know how to read these books, says Lakshmi, a 9 years old girl in slums while sitting with a pile of books of her brothers.
Lakshmi lives in a family of six members – father, mother, and her three brothers. Being the youngest as well as a girl she gets the disadvantage over education. Where all her brothers go to school, she isn’t allowed.
While finance being one of the major issues, there are others too.
“In our community, girls get married at a very young age by 12-14, so what is the point of their education. Eventually, they will have to serve their in-laws. Even if we get pushy about continuing a girl’s education after marriage, she will be stopped,” says Shakuntala, Lakshmi’s mother.
“See our Lakshmi, she is already 9. We have started searching for a suitable groom for her.”
Her father cited other concerns. “ There is a fear of abuse, distance from school to home, known- availability of transports, and lack of toilets. Due to this reason, I don’t send my daughter to school even if I want to. Safety is a big concern for me. Who’s going to take the responsibility if anything happens to her.”
Slum girls brought up with this mindset make them believe they are not worth enough compared to their brothers.
“We want our sister to gain an education. But our parents say she will get married and go to a different family whereas we have to go to school too, later on, get jobs and be a breadwinner for the family,” says Kundan, Lakshmi’s elder brother.
These situations make women vulnerable and dependant on men in life. Men start to think about them as mere objects leading to crimes like domestic violence, killings.
Without education, women have less knowledge and less power to negotiate.
All these things indicate that there is a bleak future for girl children in slums. Thus, to address this emerging issue, girls should be linked to formal/informal schooling in slums and ensured that at least they will attain the primary level of education that enables them to read and write.