Gender discrimination in Madhya Pradesh
Gender discrimination does happen; adolescent girls of Bhind speak out. Anil Gulati reports from Madhya Pradesh
"I want to study, apply for my 'inter exams'. But for my father, he says he cannot afford my examination fees." But it is more to it, she fumbles a bit and then adds in her fast tone, "He says that if I study more, get educated, he would have to 'fetch' educated bridegroom, for me, and would have to pay higher bride price for it. He says our family cannot afford the same."
These are the words of an adolescent girl Rakhi (name changed), while she shares her concern, tears roll down her face. A bubbly face which had all the smiles in this world suddenly turns pale.
Rakhi is part of 35 girls who were a part of a project titled as Udaan being implemented by Department of women and Child Development with support from UNICEF in Gohad Block of Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh.
Bhind district, has one of the lowest child sex ratio in State of Madhya Pradesh. 832 girls as to 1000 boys, while in case of State of Madhya Pradesh it is 912 girls to 1000 boys.
Udaan is project which aims to empower adolescent girls like Rakhi and others with vocational skills under Government of India scheme 'SABLA'
SABLA is a Government of India Scheme targeted at adolescent girls aged 11-18 years of age which is being piloted in 200 districts of India.
In Madhya Pradesh, there are 15 SABLA districts with the target of reaching over 10 lacs adolescent girls with the scheme. The scheme aims to enable self development and empowerment of adolescent girls in addition to improving their nutritional and health status.
Udaan project aims to empower young girls on vocational skills like computer skills, beauty parlour etc. and educate them on issues like adolescent nutrition, health and hygiene along with other life skills.
Before entering into vocational programme, a two day orientation was organised to talk to the girls about their rights and hear from them what they had to say on issues which affect them and they had a lot to share.
It was not only Rakhi, but her sister who is 19 now, fought with her parents to complete her bachelor's graduation and get trained on beauty parlour course.
She now plans to earn money by giving training of other girls on beauty parlour under the Udaan project.
She wants to earn money so that she can study further, but knows it will not be easy fight with the father who is not ready to let the daughters study further.
Her pale eyes speak her struggle, but she still has a smile on her face, to fight it out.
"We have dreams and dreams are dreams, they don't depend on affordability. We understand there are financial limitations, but for boys, families try and fulfill all of their dreams, but our dreams don't matter," said few of the girls as they were discussing about their rights.
On being asked what is one major issue which impacts girls like them at present. 'Eve teasing' was echoed by all.
"It is not only young but even for old tease us," added few.
"Boys are allowed to go to market while many times we cannot, even if we do, parents and brother are with us and if we go alone, parents come to know, we get reprimanded."
There is a good news too: Many girls are fighting it out, are studying, and determined not to get married before 18 years of age.
Parents especially mothers of many girls want their girls to get educated, stand on their own feet and do something for themselves.
They push too, few succeed to push in the family, few fail too, but that's the challenge to add to the successes, shares official of Department of Women and Child Development department of Government of Madhya Pradesh.
"Empowering women and girls will have a profound impact on the survival and well-being of children of Madhya Pradesh. Need is to ensure that we reach out to overcome discrimination, at all levels, and help girls and young women to come out and blossom to their true potential," shares Tania Goldner, Chief of UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh.
(Anil Gulati works as Communication Specialist, with UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh in India and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)