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7 ways to empower girl child in India

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Seven ways to empower girl child in India

“I can’t even explain how helpful this scholarship is for me,” says first year Information Technology student, Arti, while talking about the financial support she received from our scholarship support initiative to pursue her college studies. Coming from a low-income family, with both her parents working as farmers, being admitted to an IT course in a reputed college was like a dream come true for her.

However, it was not an easy path to take because her parents could not afford to pay her high fee. Without scholarship support, she may have had to drop out and give up her dreams, or her father would have had to take out a loan at high interest rate. This is when Arti learnt about the scholarship that Smile was offering and applied for it. She cleared all the processes and received the amount.

“I was overjoyed when I received the scholarship. They also gave me a laptop to support me in my long-term studies. It was really important for me as an IT branch student,” she added. Arti wants to help her aging parents after getting a job. A scholarship for her means upliftment of an entire family.

The need for empowering girl children

A 2024 research paper titled “The Importance of Educating and Empowering Girl Child in India”, written by Dr Meena Khoda and Sangita Hazarika, highlights the importance of education for the empowerment of girl children in India. The authors have emphasised that in a patriarchal society like India, it is through education that girls can be empowered. Through a secondary data research, the authors found that no state in India had a higher or equal literacy level for girls as compared to boys.

This shows that girls continue to be stuck in a vicious circle where they do not receive adequate education, which in turn affects their self-worth and leads to more societal problems like child marriage, etc. It also ensures that girls and women do not adequately participate in the economic and social growth of the country.

Mahatma Gandhi once said – “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate an entire family.”

This is particularly true because it has been found that educated mothers are healthier and they also have better educated and healthier children. This is because when educated women become mothers, they are aware of the needs and wants of their own bodies and the social needs of their children. They are able to influence decisions that impact the future of their children and families. Therefore, an educated woman can empower an entire family, and uplift everyone with her.

Seven ways to empower a girl child in India

Having understood the importance of empowering a girl child, now we must look at the many ways through which we can achieve this goal. Here are the seven ways to empower a girl child in India:

Understanding the role of education

We have already discussed this in detail – education is extremely important to empower the girl child. It not only makes them socially aware, but also opens new opportunities for them. Educated girls can go on to excel in different careers and leave an indelible mark. They can also become financially independent, thus giving them the agency to make their own decisions. Therefore, education is the most potent tool in liberating the women and giving them a chance to realise their true potential.

Promoting health and well-being

A strong correlation has been found in the empowerment of women and their health and wellbeing. A research paper titled “The Role of Women’s Empowerment in Enhancing Health and Wellbeing and in Ensuring Sustainable Development, and Implications for Policy in Ethiopia: A Review Paper” by Adamu Amanu Asari found that women who shoulder the majority of children’s, households’, and communities’ welfare obligations, play a vital role in the nation’s development. However, their effectiveness in these roles depends on their empowerment status.

This is true for any developing or developed country in the world, including India. Health and wellness of women ensures that they live better lives and empowered women are more likely to make better health related decisions for themselves.

Breaking gender stereotypes

This brings us to our next point, which is about breaking gender stereotypes. In a society where women face numerous stereotypes, they are more likely to remain stuck in a negative loop. There are some stereotypes like women cannot do well in STEM subjects or they cannot drive as well as men. Such stereotypes create adverse situations for women in which they face higher societal pressure while pursuing a career path not considered ‘feminine’.

These stereotypes are further perpetuated in today’s technologically advanced world as well, embedding them in our systems even strongly. A study by a team of psychology researchers revealed that gender-neutral internet searches often yield male-dominated results. This bias in search algorithms can influence users, promoting gender bias and potentially affecting hiring decisions. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is part of ongoing research into how artificial intelligence (AI) can shape our perceptions and actions.

Another research article found that AI systems reflect the biases of the source material, perpetuating harmful ideas about certain genders. These harmful ideas have led to systemic oppression of women and other marginalized genders for decades. And, this is why, it is important to address the problem of gender stereotypes if we want to find ways to empower girl child in India.

Fighting against early marriage

In India, each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married. While the prevalence of early marriage declined from 47% to 27% between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, it is still too high. This practice not only affects the girl directly but also her family and community.

A girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school, not earn money and not contribute financially to the community. She is more likely to experience domestic violence and become infected with HIV/AIDS. She is more likely to have children when she is still a child, increasing the chances of her dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Therefore, fighting against early marriage is a crucial step in empowerment of girls and women in India.

Engaging community and stakeholders

Now that we understand the various issues that we need to tackle for empowerment of women to come true, let us look at how we can do it. One of the best ways to do this is by engaging the community and important stakeholders in the process. These stakeholders can be the teachers, local leaders, influential members of the society, or others.

Since stakeholders carry a certain authority in the societies and communities they operate in, engaging them and taking them onboard can accelerate the process of achieving positive results. Community involvement, in the same way, helps in taking everyone together to work towards a common goal. This can be a gamechanger especially in villages and smaller towns where communities play an important social role.

Making boys allies in the journey

Boys, from a young age, are conditioned to develop patriarchal ideas of the society. This puts them in an advantageous position and normalises the discrimination of girls in their eyes.

When these boys grow up to become men, they fail to fight alongside women for equal opportunity, justice and empowerment. Therefore, it is extremely important to educate the boys from an early age about these issues and to make them allies. Aware and educated boys grow into men who support the women in their life in realising their dreams and potential.

Supporting NGOs

Lastly, another way to empower girl children is to support the initiatives that are working in this direction. We started this story by highlighting how our scholarship support helped Arti in focusing on her studies, and how young Arti dreams to take care of her ageing parents when she grows up and finds a job. This is how we can create a long-lasting impact by supporting young women.

If you are someone who wants to be a part of this change, then becoming a part of our She Can Fly initiative is one of the best ways to empower girl child in India. In the end, it is only through everyone’s collective efforts that we can achieve the dream of empowering our girls. By empowering them, we can empower our country.

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