“The content of a book holds the power of education and it is with this power that we can shape our future and change lives.”
From the time when voicing an opinion was a far-fetched dream for women in this male dominant country, India has come a long way in gender equality and breaking the stereotypes changing the lives of millions of women.
In spite of prominent examples from Indian history that have remarkable achievements such as Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla and Sania Mirza, it is outrageous that a large part of women population in the rural areas of the country are still being denied basic quality education.
Undoubtedly, Right to Education has entitled girls to receive the free and compulsory education but still, there are numerous hurdles that hold them back.
Women constitute 48.5% of country’s population. According to Census 2011, the female literacy rate is only 65.46% (as opposed to the male literacy rate of 82.14%) of the total female population of India. Though there has been a substantial increase in the number of literate women and this gap is narrowing, it still persists.
It is disheartening to know that still large womenfolk of our country are illiterate, backward, weak and exploited immoderately.
Sadly, even in the 21st century where we plan to colonize the moon, conversely we do not even consider women education a basic human right but a luxury bestowed on them!
In rural India, the majority of people is poor and cannot afford to give education to all their children and when they have to make a choice they prefer the son over the daughter. The notion behind is that the girl will eventually get married and leave the house and the son will take up their responsibility in old age. Hence, there is not much consideration for educating their girl child. Some of the significant reasons for illiteracy of rural girls are:
- Girls are still confined to four walls to perform the domestic duty as it is believed that giving them education might make them demanding and resist them to do the domestic chores.
- Although the number is declining, early marriages are majorly responsible for depriving girls of attending school.
- The conservative mentality of parents who don’t want their daughters to work does not feel the necessity to educate them.
- Lack of educational institutions near the villages makes it difficult for girls dwelling in these rural regions to travel long distances.
And the list is endless…
The main question that arises here is how can we bring a change to this current scenario?
The answer is – by changing the perception towards women education and help every girl child to become self-independent and accomplish her dreams by giving them equivalent opportunities to learn, grow and prosper.
Educating rural women will not only change their life but of the entire family and in turn, the entire country.
According to UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013, the crucial changes that educated rural women will bring in their lives are as follows-
- Girls with the higher level of education are less likely to get married at an early age – If all girls had a primary education, there would be 14% fewer child marriages and if all girls had a secondary education, there would be two-thirds fewer child marriages.
- Girls with higher levels of education are less likely to have children at an early age– 10% fewer girls would become pregnant under 17 years in if they all had a primary education. Almost 60% fewer girls would become pregnant under 17 if they all had a secondary education.
- Mothers’ education improves child nutrition- If all women had a primary education, 1.7 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition. If all women had a secondary education, 12 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition
- Educated girls can save millions of lives– If all women had a primary education, there would be 15% fewer child deaths. If all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half, saving 3 million lives.
- Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth– If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, saving 98,000 lives.
- Educated women are more likely to find work – the percentage of working women with less than primary education rises by 50% if they have a primary education and 60% with a secondary education
- Educated women will have a better awareness of personal hygiene, menstruation and childbirth – One woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes and ten women die of unsafe abortions every day in India. Women having at least basic education about menstruation and personal hygiene have lesser chance of developing cervical cancer. With better awareness of contraceptive and birth control options, they can prevent avoid unwanted pregnancies and life-threatening unsafe abortions.
Girl Education is the most powerful tool to change their position in the society. In addition, Education also reduces inequalities and functions as a means of improving their status within the family.
Education is considered as a milestone for women empowerment because it equips them to respond to the challenges, to confront their traditional role and change their lives.