I was travelling through Rajasthan once, and happened to attend the Mahaveer jayanti Mela at Shree Mahaverjee near Kota. I happened to see a Rajasthani tribal family and along with them a few kids of ages not more than 12 – but most of them in pairs. As I tried to have a closer a look, I was surprised to see them Married.
I was looking at so many child brides, and I was shocked. I was shocked, at an age where a kid girl should be going to school, playing with her friends and be in a safe comfort zone of her parents – she was here with her husband’s family – and doing the chores which she shouldn’t have been doing.
But that’s the reality; that a Girl Child has to go through in her life.
Oh yes, India is still a male dominated society, where women are often seen as inferior to men. And this is fed into a girl’s mind right from her birth time. A girl child is normally not welcome and we used to have a lot of abortions earlier. But since the time the Sex determination tests are banned, this rate has come down.
It is still perceived that the birth of a daughter is not as blissful as the birth of a son, and “May you be blessed with a hundred sons” is a common Hindu wedding blessing.
There is a big social disadvantage of being a girl. A bagful lot of discriminatory practices including female foeticide, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, early marriage and dowry have made a girl child feel being a burden for her parent’s family. These discriminatory feelings affect the health and well-being of a girl child, resulting in a higher mortality rate.
And that’s the reason for survival of only 1/3 of the total number of girls born. Some are killed in the womb, some at the time of birth, some die due to ill health and some due to poor nutritional status.
Various reasons have been attributed to these facts; poverty, illiteracy and gender discrimination, being the prime ones. Gender discrimination or the preference for a son has also influenced the nutritional status of a girl child. It is estimated that 75% of the total malnourished children are girls who show signs of chronic and acute malnutrition.
And that’s not all, the girl child in India is often deprived from her right of an education. The number of girls dropping out of school far exceeds the boys because girls are expected to help at home, either with household work like washing and cooking or with taking care of younger siblings.
The other important disadvantage of being a girl child is the marriage issue. While they help with domestic duties during childhood and adolescence, they go to live with their husband’s family after marriage, which means less help in the household of their originating family, and most importantly loss of money due to the dowry tradition.
Because of all these facts, a girl when she becomes a mother, her illiteracy and lack of schooling directly disadvantage their young children. Low schooling translates into poor quality of care for children and the tradition continues on..
But now, it is time that we should try to understand here that Girl child is the future of every nation and India is no exception. A little amount of care, a handful of warmth and a heart full of love for a girl child can make a big difference.
Its 2016, and this year the International Girl Child day coincides with Dussehra or Viyaya Dashmi, or the day of worshipping of Godess Durga. On this day we celebrate the victory of good over evil. So, lets also come forward and remove this evil of treating a girl child in discriminatory way away from our mindsets and lives.
Lets pledge our support and help to further promote the cause of our girl children and promise ourselves of loving and taking proper care of girl child by educating them, stopping the age old Child marriage and also eliminate the discrimination that exists in our society between a girl and a boy.
CRY – Child Rights and You has been pushing for this cause for quite some time now. I am quoting Soha Moitra, CRY Regional Director, North, “Girls by virtue of their gender face discrimination and challenges at every stage of their lives. The deep seated patriarchy combined with poverty keeps them away from many rights and comforts which generally come easily to boys. Be it female foeticide, education, health, early marriage or household responsibilities, girls are usually the first ones to suffer. That is precisely the reason why empowerment of girls is not just necessary but also the need of the hour. We have so many examples of girls who with the right support and guidance have shattered perceptions and stereotypes and have managed to make a mark for themselves despite the odds. We need to work towards a society that treats everyone equally and where girls don’t have to fight for a space that is rightfully theirs”.
For more information about CRY, please visit : www.cry.org