As a child, being on time to school was my only worry. However, in some remote corner of the country lives a girl who is willing to walk across the hill for more than an hour just to reach her school. With dedication, persistence and support from her family, at least she is going to school. In India, there are over 4 million girls of school age who are out of school for reasons that I can’t even begin to comprehend. But in my limited time of working here, I have realised that the singular reason why these girls are out of school is due to their gender.
Coming from a family of educated, independent, and strong-willed women, going to school was a given for me. In fact, it was more of a bother considering all the exams I had to take. No one had to come to my door to elaborate on the importance of a good education to my parents. I have grown up in a home where education is just as important for me as it is for my little brother. I have experienced the greener side of life. My internship at Educate Girls has made me not only appreciate my privileges but also given me time to understand that if India or any country for that matter wants to progress, needs to educate girls.
When I started my internship at Educate Girls, it was simply the prospect of working in the development sector that excited me. I thought I was briefly aware of India’s out-of-school girl problem and that working at Educate Girls would enlighten me a little more. It not just enlightened me, but gave me an enormous wake up call. The problem used to be a smidge at the back of my mind, but it is not as insignificant as I thought it was.
What really appalled me was the hidden state of the country when it comes to concepts such as gender bias, child marriage, and poverty. We all know that these problems exist, but how serious are they? What the common public receives is simply a gist of the conflict. The magnitude of these problems, however, is too intense to be fit into one sitting of research. No misfortune can even begin to compare to what these girls go through feel on a daily basis. As growing teenagers, our problems seem petty in front of what these girls tackle.
I was also shocked to learn that educating girls could lead to a reduction in child marriage, HIV+ patients, and class and income inequalities. An educated girl is 50% more likely to immunise her child, earn 10-20% more, and more than twice as likely to educate her own children.
I think what I have gained most from this entire experience is that it is just as important to educate the public about the problem as it is to address it. The more people are aware, the more possible it is to join hands and work towards a brighter future. We live in a country where daughters are not even considered children of the family. The privileged do not make up the dominant part of the Indian population, and these are the hard hitting facts of life.
At 17 years, as I leave behind my school days and start my university education, I am thankful for a family that truly understands the importance of education irrespective of gender. Someday, I will use my education to make a difference in society.
By Anushka Arora,
Intern, Educate Girls