Gandhiji proclaimed that ‘our country is truly free only when a lady is able to walk freely and without fear, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari at midnight.’ Even though laws and legislation concerning gender equality have been formed after Gandhi’s death, there is still much that needs to be done in India.
The greatest obstacle for girls is the threat of street sexual harassment- being followed on the way to school/college, cat-calls at the bus-stop, being groped or pinched on a bus or being stalked foreshadow sexual violence. The threat of being harassed intimidates girls and, persuades parents to stop their schooling at puberty. Lacking education, confidence and self-esteem, the girl has no inner defenses against exploitation and society provides no external protections either. And this leads to girl getting married away, because marriage is considered as a solution for girl’s safety. The December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape of a student inside a moving bus has sadly become India’s defining story of the past year. If anything positive can come of this truly shocking, violent incident – one that made headlines across the globe – it is that it might have acted as a wake-up call to the many of us who had grown complacent. What good is a growing economy or the world’s second largest military if half of the population can’t venture past their own doorstep without complete confidence?
There is inaction on the part of government of India. People are becoming insensitive because of the injustice around them. And women are not only entitled for survival but also to a life with dignity, grace and equal opportunities so that they can grow to their full potential. We are the world’s largest democracy, yet tens of millions of us are treated like second class citizens – last year, the World Economic Forum ranked India 105th in the world in terms of economic opportunities and education for women. According to India’s most recent census the literacy rate among women is about 65 percent, compared with more than 80 percent for men.
I feel education is the best and most effective way to bring out change. Education is indeed one of the most important part of anyone’s life but especially significant for women, and every country should try to eradicate illiteracy and achieve a 100% education level. Not only because education is an entry point to other opportunities, but also because the educational achievements of women can have ripple effects within the family and across generations. Investing in girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. More and more schools for girls should be formed mainly in rural areas. But the education should not just focus on the “formal knowledge and training”. Rather, women should be given vocational knowledge and training as well through which they not only learn to equip to technical skills but also inculcates a more holistic approach that places a strong emphasis on enabling girls to develop a wider awareness of themselves and the external context in which they live. Female economic power also enhances the “wealth and well-being of nations.” Women who control their own income tend to have fewer children, and fertility rates have shown to be inversely related to national income growth. In turn, a woman’s level of education affects her decision-making process when it comes to questions about contraception, age of marriage, fertility, child mortality, modern sector employment and earnings.
“If you educate a boy, you educate an individual – if you educate a girl, you educate a community”- An old African Proverb
By Binal Dave