Transforming India through educating girls

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Transforming India through educating girls
The girls of the country have made their mark in all fields

Girls are scripting success stories and several schemes launched by the government have not only transformed their lives but also brought a change in the mindset of the society

By Vikas Khanna

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Published: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 8:00 PM

Be it world record holding swimmer Bhakti Sharma, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, India's and world's first female amputee mountain climber Rupa Devi, boxer Mary Kom, or Tessy Thomas, the 'Missile Woman of India', Indian women are scaling new heights across the globe. The girls of the country have made their mark in all fields, which was once considered to be male bastions. From education and sports to cinema and armed forces, they have made the country proud with their achievements. What encourages them further are government initiatives like National Girl Child Day, which is celebrated on January 24. The day aims to create social awareness about the importance of girl child in Indian society and create better opportunities for her welfare.
In order to encourage the education of girls, the Government of India has also initiated various programmes and policies. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Teach the Daughter) campaign to improve child sex ratio in the country - the number of girls born for every 1,000 boys - and gender equality through access to education.
Inequality in education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and child marriage had always put them at a disadvantage. Therefore, it was necessary to remove all social discriminations and exploitations. It is in this context that several girl child specific schemes were launched by the government to end the discrimination they faced. Safe and enabling environment are must if the girls have to realise their full potential. They should be aware of their legal rights and legislations the government has enacted from time to time for their safety and rights. It is a matter of satisfaction that girls are today much better prepared to face the challenges in life. Legislations like Domestic Violence Act 2009, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 and Dowry Prohibition Act 2006 have ensured their proper rights.
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has been designed to focus on 100 gender critical districts where the child sex ratio is particularly low by enforcing existing laws that criminalise pre-birth gender selection and by improving girls' school attendance, among other measures. The main thrust of the campaign is that there should be 1,000 girl child births for every 1,000 male child births.
Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme, also launched in 2015, is aimed at encouraging people to save for education and marriage of girl child. Under the scheme, the accounts can be opened in the name of two girl children up to 10 years of age in post offices or scheduled commercial banks. With a minimum investment of Rs1,000 in a year, the scheme offers 9.1 per cent annual interest. Though the money can be withdrawn only after the girl attains the age of 21, premature withdrawal of 50 per cent of the amount at the end of the previous financial year is allowed for the purpose of the girl's higher education or marriage after she turns 18. The idea behind the scheme is to encourage financial inclusion and increase domestic savings.
The Balika Samriddhi Yojana, which was started in 1997, was aimed at changing the negative attitude of families and communities towards the girl child by increasing enrolment and retention of girls in schools; raising the marriage age of girls and creating income opportunities and activities. The scheme involved a gift of Rs500 to the mother on the delivery of a baby girl and an annual scholarship for education till Grade 10. The amount of scholarship increased with the girl moving up in classes. It was noticed that early and forced marriage stood in the way of girls' progress. Girls, who are child brides, miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared. The cycle of violence that begins in girlhood carries over into womanhood and across generations. The idea behind the scheme was to address their needs and unlock their potential.
Similarly, the Women and Child Development Ministry came out with a scheme called Dhanalaksmi to encourage cash transfers to the girl child's family to ensure immunisation, school enrolment and maintenance up to the Grade 8. Under the Right to Education Act, free and necessary education to the girl child is available. Then there are self-help groups in order to make better the livelihood of girls in rural areas. The success of these schemes can be gauged from the fact that more and more girls are today creating a niche for themselves and bringing laurels to the country. However, there is an urgent need to adopt and implement laws and policies to end early and forced marriage. The government's efforts can succeed if communities are also mobilised against the practice. Until we create awareness about the benefits of women education, all these programmes will not bring about the desired result.

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