DELHI, India – The Kerala Association of Professional Social Workers discovered in its survey that girls in India value education as more important to them than marriage. Out of the 2,570 girls surveyed in the Palakkad school district, almost 84 percent chose education over marriage as most important. The results suggest that Indian girls want more out of their lives than to be only wives and mothers.
A majority 98.89 percent of the girls surveyed did not support lowering the marriageable age down to 16 years old. The appropriate marriage age selected by 92 percent of the girls was between ages 20 and 25.
Women in India are expected to bear children and feed the family. The fulfillment of those two duties is what earns them respect in Indian society. Valuing women based on only the ability to raise a family limits girls in India. Director Pauline Rose of UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report found it criminal that over a million girls in India are not in school.
Rose expressed the importance of the Indian government investing in education for girls as a moral obligation and solution to high child and maternal mortality rates. Investment in education for girls will secure a more prosperous future.
Girls in India are born into disadvantage simply because of their gender. They are discriminated against nationwide and further marginalized when they are members of lower social and economic classes. Their identity such as caste, religion and ethnicity can count against them along with disability and poverty.
The Indian education system is riddled with inequality between girls and boys. Boys have a higher enrollment in private schools. Public schools funded by the government cater mainly to girls and boys from the most impoverished families by providing a free education.
Adolescence is referred to by UNICEF as an age of opportunity; however, Indian girls experience a different reality during that phase of life. Vacha, a women’s group from Mumbai, said adolescent Indian girls are domestically confined and excluded from education. Indian girls spend their adolescent years preparing for the traditional gender roles of wife and mother.
Government policies in India do not represent adolescent girls because they are considered to be on the path to motherhood. Adolescent girls are not included in the population of children as their needs are different from that of boys and they are too young to be in the population of women.
The growing crime against girls in India leaves girls practically immobile because it is not safe for them to be out on their own. Girls lose the opportunity to learn and leave their house because it is too dangerous to go outside. Delhi and Mumbai have experienced a sharp increase in rape and sexual harassment reports.
The fear of victimization reduces the freedom of girls in India. Girls who live in the slum communities are especially vulnerable to losing their freedom because of the lack of resources. They are by themselves at home after school because both of their parents must work and accommodations are unavailable. Girls in slums are married off early as a way to protect them from victimization.
Empowering girls in India is of the utmost importance because they are the product of a very patriarchal society. They will continue to be disadvantaged and marginalized if they are not enabled to receive a full education and put off marriage and pregnancy.
A report by Dasra, a top strategic philanthropic foundation, found that India could possibly add $110 billion to its GDP from the economic participation of women. Empowering girls in India is beneficial.
– Brittany Mannings
Sources: The Times of India, The Guardian, The Times of India, BBC News