Is it just me or are others also observing this phenomena?
With the discussion on the new MDGs under-way there is a major push towards lobbying of girl child education and other issues around the adolescent girls in specific. Adolescent girls are finally recognised as a key to resolving the impending issue of poverty that every nation is trying to resolve. It is said that if you invest in a girl then she will bring her family, village/community and nation out of poverty. Invest in a girl and she is likely to invest about 76% more than boys into development of the family and so on.
The first step to this investment is by educating the girl and giving her a voice and agency to advocate for herself. (I don’t exactly remember which research statistics this is from, owing to a lot of research and data available on the net). There are now justifications provided in terms of economic cost, with the hope that this would gain attention to the world. (Isn’t it ironic that unless figures are shown, we never stop to think twice about an issue or existing problem?)
I don’t know about you all, but in India when I was young, I have experienced that a mother is the first teacher of the child. So if this theory is true, then why is it that “If the child makes a mistake it’s the mother’s fault (after all it was her teaching) and if a child performs well or does something right, the fathers are given the credit and not the mother?” This statement to me itself states that the depth of this issue is much more than educating a girl child and I believe we have been ignoring it in some way. I am in no way implying that education of girls is not important but along with education we need to simultaneously create support structure, address other issues that stop the girl from reaching her potential.
Irrespective of how much we talk about gender equality and giving opportunity to girls; we still are holding them back. In developing countries the roles of women are well defined even before a girl child is born and the older women in the families ensure they are enforced. As the girl reaches puberty she is no longer daddy’s little princess, in fact she becomes a burden which families need to get rid of fearing a moral disgrace to the family.
Some of the top Identified reasons that holds girl back can be classified as infrastructural, cultural or others.
- Safe Spaces- Lack of Secure places to interact and play
- Education- Lack of educational support or facilities (Like toilets in Schools)
- Honor Killing
- Violence against Girls and Women- By virtue of being women (this includes Sexual violence- Rape, FGM, DV and many more)
- Lack of health care
- Lack of Sanitation facilitations
- Child marriage
- Pre- defined roles for Men and Women (Gender based biases)
Thinking realistically, even if I have an education and a voice, can I (a girl) really advocate for me (herself) with so many other barriers holding me (her) back? A girl in a developing country is like the center of a large multi-layer sphere (something like an onion). To reach to her we need to peel each layer and set her free. Even if we peel all the layers we need to create an ecosystem which works like a support structure, ensuring her freedom and prevention from being pulled back into that sphere. We as civil society organisations are basically working on one of the layers of the onion which may be education, health or livelihood but to bring about a concrete change, we need to work together as a unit attack this menace to free her from all the shackles.
It is said that every drop forms an ocean so can we as an individual, working in the development space irrespective of our core thematic of work; we all play the role of a drop to form an ocean for the cause of girls. All we need to do is make a conscious decision that can help bring about a Tsunami of change.