Balancing the scales – Promoting girl child education
Up until a few years ago, the popular perception, especially among the Indian underprivileged, was that a girl child was a ‘burden’ or a ‘paraya dhan’. There was no need to get her an education because it was the family’s obligation to get her married off as soon as possible. In contrast, boys were treated as gifts from god; they were showered with affection, placed on a pedestal and given the privileged of attending school. This situation however, is now rapidly changing.
Constituting approximately half of India’s population and rising at a steady rate, women have starting stepping out from under the shadow that was cast over them by centuries of oppression and patriarchal views. A catalyst to this has been the rising awareness regarding the role that education plays in empowering women.
Every year thousands of youngsters, students and professionals alike, choose to volunteer with hundreds of NGOs to help bring about this change. The word is spread through street-level activities such as nuked naataks (street plays) and counseling sessions with parents of girl children. Through dedicated and concentrated efforts, the girl child has finally started to get her due.
Deepalaya is a non-profit organisation working out of Delhi, Haryana, U.P. and Uttarakhand that, among other causes, works to enable self-reliance among women. A large way in which we do this is through education. In a country where boys are given preference, we decided to break the mold and introduced a policy called – ‘Positive discrimination for the girl child’. Under this policy we actively search for girl children in our communities and then promote them to enroll at a school. So far, we’ve been successful in ensuring a 50:50 boy to girl ratio at all our schools and non-formal education centres
To further promote girl child education, we took to take on the very patriarchal system that has been accused of holding the girls back. Through the Father And Daughter Alliance (FADA) project, we reached out to the fathers of the daughters living in Delhi and NCR. Through one-to-one counseling and sessions with our community volunteers we were successful in bringing about a change in their thought process. Where once they had discouraged their daughters from going to school, they now actively encouraged them to do the same. The fathers now became a driving force behind their daughter’s education.
While the work that we’ve done to balance the scales has definitely brought changes to the lives of the families that we’ve touched, a lot still remains to be done if we are to give the right to education to every child, regardless of gender.