Even as the United Nations adopted Resolution 66 / 170 to declare a day to emphasise the importance of girl child's rights, millions of girl's around the world face deprivation of rights and are marginalized, basis their gender. India is faced with grim statistics of female foeticide and girl child abuse.
A UN report recently provided disturbing insight on how India is the most dangerous place in the world to be a baby girl.
Violation of girl child's basic rights like education in India stems from the amalgamation of the deep rooted bias in the society coupled with the lack of basic facilities on behalf of the government.
Lack of education is intrinsically linked to the girl child being exposed to other risks like child labour, trafficking and sexual abuse. Despite various initiatives by the government to encourage girl child's education, there seem to be many more loopholes keeping them away from schools.
According to a study conducted across 13 states in the country by CRY and its partners it came to light that only 18pc percent schools have separate toilets for girls. This has been one of the major reasons why girls dropped out of school.
Suma Ravi, Regional Director, South region, CRY - Child Rights and You, says, "The girl child in India faces vulnerability in so many facets that it is impossible to have a single pronged approach to target the violation of her rights. To truly bridge the gap we need the communities and the government to work in tandem and ensure access to education, nutrition, health -care, protection from abuse and discrimination to the girl child.
"Empowering a girl child is a moral imperative of any society and it not just leads to the development of the girl, her family, and community but also strengthens the nation with poverty reduction and equitable growth."
The government's initiatives like Balika Samriddhhi Yojana and the Kishori Shakti Yojana have been aimed at facilitating education and development of the girl child. The lack of social and family backing and infrastructure will only render these schemes futile.
At CRY, we have witnessed how educating a girl child helps improve a magnitude of problems on a micro as well as a macro scale. Educating the girl child, we feel is a major determinant leading to the equitable growth of not just a community but the country as a whole.
Tackling the problem at a grass-root level by engaging parents, families and the wider community is imperative for a holistic change in the lives of millions of girls in the country.
Take the case, for instance, of 14- year old Kashturi who hails from Adhi dravidar community of Kavarkalpatty village in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, who faced the dreaded prospect of child marriage when she had to drop out of school, which was not just 5 kms away but had no bus facility.
Taking notice of her keen interest in studies, her father, working at a mango farm, got her admitted to the nearest school. Despite the school not being accessible by bus, Kashturi, determined by her resolve to pursue education, used to walk down everyday 5 kms to her school.
As it got considerable late in the evenings on her way back, she started to face stalking, eve-teasing and verbal abuse by the local boys. Unable to cope up with it, she decided to quit this school.
With no other option of education nearby, she stayed at home helping her family with household chores. The circumstances and her staying at home idle, compelled her parents to start preparing for her marriage.
Clueless, she was brought face to face with the reality of the prospect of being married to a 32- year old man from the village.
Terrified at the thought, she shared her plight with a friend who in-turn shared it with an NGO which is CRY's On- ground partner in the region. Coupled with support from the Panchayat and the local government, CRY supported NGO counselled the groom's family on the legal repercussions of their action.
Kashturi's family now lives near their native village and attends the school which is 2 kms from her home. Had it not been for the intervention and the counselling of the NGO, Kashturi would have her hands full of household chores rather than books.
It is rather ironic in a situation when the parents are willing for sending their daughter to school, the lack of schools; infrastructure and accessibility are forcing thousands of students like Kashturi out of school and into the clutches to child marriage, child labour and even abuse in many cases.
The vicious circle leads them to an unjust life of depravation curbing endless possibilities that they would have otherwise. It is the collective effort of the government authorities, local community bodies and NGO's like ours to ensure that the gaps of gender inequality are bridged by facilitating policies and changes favourable to the welfare of the girl child.
--IBNS (Posted on 10-10-2013)