Originally published: 17.07.16
July 12, 2016 marked Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousofzai’s 19th birthday. Twitter celebrated the occasion with various hashtags (#YesAllGirls, #GirlsEducation, #MalalaDay) and by holding several chats. I had the pleasure of being part of one such chat (#REFSpeak), hosted by The Red Elephant Foundation led by the brilliant Kirthi Jayakumar. (Kirthi, a Mogul Influencer and Global Ambassador, is a lawyer by profession but tirelessly works for women’s rights the world over. You can read more about Kirthi here).
The guests on the chat came from various backgrounds but we all agreed on one thing: universal education for girls is essential. At a time when the world is evolving, on a daily basis, we need to ensure that girls are evolving with it and are aware of their rights and liberties.
In many parts of the world girl education, although enforced by the government, faces countless barriers. Barriers such as not enough facilities, sanitation requirements for menstruating girls, threats of street harassment to and from school, physical or sexual harassment by teachers and boys being prioritized are but a few. In an environment where families place more emphasis on getting girls married and shrugging off their responsibilities on to someone else, it is no wonder that girls are not being educated. Vehement practices like dowry, that refuse to die down, add to the miasma of injustice.
Traditional societies like Nepal and Afghanistan place many restrictionson girls when they are menstruating. Due to lack of adequate facilities, safety and privacy, coupled with unhygienic conditions mean up to 30% of girls in these countries are missing school. (See more here. Also to learn more about cultural practices around menstruation, read this excellent piece by Sayfty’s Shruti Kapoor).
We live in a man’s world and although that dynamic is changing with each passing day, for rural societies, that change is elusive. In these areas, the girl child is often forsaken to ensure the boy is well fed, well-educated and has all resources to his disposal. Although the logic is alarmingly simple – girls will get married and go away but boys will stay and provide a living – it is the very simplicity of this logic that threatens our girls and their future. In an attempt to break this down, several ways were discussed. In the absence of adequate facilities, it is easy for parents to keep the girl home but if governments around the world were to make this a priority, cut down red tape and corruption, and focus on the education of girls, we can herald the beginning of a new era. Providing safe ways for transporting girls to and from school, ensuring there is enough funding and infrastructure support for education and perhaps the most important, talking to families about the importance of girl education. When families understand that gender is not an impediment to income, attitudes will start to change. Introducing resistant families to those who have seen positive results from girls’ education to start a conversation is also a very helpful way to break down these barriers and educate girls.
It is hard to fight tradition; especially one of oppression and resistance. For decades, girls and women have been relegated to the kitchen; their basic rights ignored and overlooked. In the cities, more and more women are standing up and demanding equality, primarily because they have been educated and realize that there is more to them than what they’ve always been told. This attitude needs to permeate to rural societies throughout the world as well because when you educate a man you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate an entire nation. And in the words of Malala, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”
So perhaps it is time for us to talk the capitalistic talk so everyone can walk the education
This article first appeared onmogul.com
Liberating Realisations : I am womanist. I’m a writer passionate about women’s right and equality. My aim is to bring change in the way women and men are treated around the world and specially in India. I’m fighting for respect and to be treated as an equal. My blog, Liberating Realizations, on Tumblr talks about /documents the inequality – violence, abuse, rape, torture – that women face everyday all around the world, and, particularly in India. I was a victim of violence for many years and for the first time in my life am finding my “voice”. I want to use this voice to talk about equality and promulgate the belief that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated better. I occasionally write about other things as well – anything that might grab my fancy – but in the end I am a champion for women/girl rights. My Twitter handle is @rupandemehta.