All these years, we have been preaching about empowering our women and saving the girl child from the clutches of gender inequality. But in reality, have we succeeded in reaching our goal?
It’s a reality- we need lots of improvement in several areas including education for girls and nutrition.
It is disturbing to know that still many families prefer boys over girls. Birth of a boy is considered as a blessing, while a girl child is often ignored. Many parents still hesitate to send their girl children to school and marry them off at an early age.
As per the Census in the year 2011, India has only 940 females for every 1000 males. Female literacy rates have improved over the past 25 years. However, we still have long way to go to match the male literacy rate. Only 65.46% of our females, according to the Census in 2011, were literate compared to 80% of males.
Similarly, undernutrition affects females more than males in India. According to a UNICEF report, 36% of Indian women part of the NFHS-3 (National Health Survey) was chronically undernourished and 55 % were anaemic. About 68 % of girl children from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in the NFHS-3 were malnourished.
We already have several schemes to help improve lives of girl children in India, including the two programmes the Government launched in January this year: ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ and ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY).’ Other schemes introduced for the welfare of our female population include ‘Nutrition programme for adolescent girls,’ and ‘The Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) – Sabla.’
Like the Government, efforts by some NGOs like The Akshaya Patra Foundation have also given rays of hope in women and girl children across India.
Akshaya Patra’s nutritious mid-day meals have helped numerous girl children back to school.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation has also given employment opportunities to rural women. The organisation’s decentralised kitchens are mainly run by Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs), mainly by mothers of children who are studying in the organisation’s beneficiary schools. The employment at Akshaya Patra, no doubt, has given some kind of financial independence to these mothers.
It does seem days are getting better for the girl child, but our commitment to bridge the gap needs to be stronger and actions to bring changes much faster and then we can really see a nation where girls stand shoulder to shoulder with the boys very soon.