“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world,” Nelson Mandela. It is true indeed. But education is not limited to textbooks. One evident proof of this would be our attitude that is a derivative effect of the society’s norms; home’s environment; company and peer groups; and text books. Because no textbook teaches us to discriminate between genders, castes, religion, etc. Textbooks teach that all men and women should be treated equally, yet we have incidences of female foeticide/ infanticide and female student dropouts. Where does a person learns in his childhood and teenage that a girl child is a burden as consequently, they carry this tradition of wrong-doings forward? There are many regions of our country and even globe, where education is privilege for only boys, and girls are deprived of it. Which textbook or school has taught this? Evidently, its all about the matrix of society and individual family’s thought process that surrounds a child or a person’s life every time, has affected the minds.
Of course, society and families play a pivotal role here, as is well said by someone, “education begins at home.” With education one can make right choices and change his or her life for better, and harmony. And, it shouldn’t be gender-biased and limited to anyone. In fact, more than a child, his or her parents and family should be well educated for leading a life of justice, harmony and contribute to the progress of the society. Hence, more than just earning a degree, earning a progressive and balanced life is necessary.
And now, let’s take the onus of being educated and acting like an educated. However, education to a greater extent sprouts from the sense of humanity as well, which needs to be activated whether one is formally educated or not. Below are some statistics of uneducated kind of work. A statistical study shows that male to female ratio on the count of 1000 has been varying significantly. Now, we have the figures of 972 females (per 1000 males) in 1901; 964 in 1911; and 955 in 1921 versus 933 in 2001, and 914 (girl child) in 2011 (child sex ratio), tentatively. What’s the difference now? Probably, girls these days are seen less as Goddesses and more as burdens.
In 2011, India’s child sex ratio was at 914 girls (1000 boys), which is the lowest since the country’s Independence with Haryana’s a child sex ratio 834 girls to 1000 boys, far worse than the national average. According to 2001 Census, in Punjab, the sex ratio (zero-six age group) declined from 875 to 793 (-82 points), in Haryana the decrease was from 879 to 820 (-59 points); in Himachal Pradesh this decrease was from 951 to 897 (-54 points); in Gujarat, it was from 928 to 878 (-50 points); in Chandigarh the reduction was from 899 to 845 (-54 points); and in Delhi from 915 to 865 (-50 points).
Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, is of the opinion that education works as the best medicine or dose for the female infanticide and foeticide. “Education for all and incentives to underprivileged girls for higher education. Awareness of fundamental rights for all and outreach programs so that people are able to differentiate between right and wrong. Constantly highlighting the achievements of women of the world and advertising how each girl has the potential to reach such heights, given a chance.Ms. Sona Mazumdar, Chief Partnership Officer at KidZania India, has created an environment of equal and co-existence at her school. KidZania is a safe, unique, and interactive global indoor theme park that inspires educates & empowers kids, helping them understand & manage their world better. Such kind of change in attitude and approach towards education can trigger positivity.
Sangita Desai, Co-Founder of Raw Nature (a range of safe, botanical grooming solutions that gets to the root of specific skin types and hair conditions) highlighted key points of education:
- Importance of girl education - Education is Empowerment. It is for keeps and will always hold you in good stead. We believe in women empowerment and education is right at its core
- Rights for equality and education - In todays day and age, it is the responsibility of every parent to ensure that the child, irrespective of the gender, has the right to give life their best shot. Its imperative that we do not see it as a gender based issue but a human one
- Educating girls about good touch and bad touch - Absolutely a must. This has to be coupled with instilling in them the confidence of coming back to us and talking about it if they have a doubt or such an unfortunate incidence was to occur. They need to have a safe place.
- Sex education for girls - Sex education is not only about the biological aspect. It's also a matter of mind, spirit and even physical health. It's important that we guide them with these in mind while the tendency will be naturally prone to be immersed in the fantasy of it.
- Boys should be educated from their childhood about respecting women and girls - It starts from us setting an example rather than educating them. We need to demonstrate the fact that men need to respect the women at home, at social gatherings and every other walk of life. This I believe is something that they see and will learn.
- Defence/ martial arts education - This training will only help them in time of need and also instil confidence of being independent.
In this context, Vikas Arora, Team Building trainer, Women Empowerment Trainer & Director Tutelage Professionals Pvt Ltd, who is currently working on launching a pan-Indian women safety application which will help women or girls in distress which will go live on Women's Day, said, “Training girls at an early age in self-defence or martial arts, equips them well to handle any strange situation before them, boosts their self-confidence and increases their awareness of surroundings around them. It also equips them to explore more opportunities before them without the fear of strangers and also makes them capable of standing on their own feet and improves their social skills.”
On the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child in 2014, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had called for the eradication of female feticide. The following year on 22 January 2015, he launched, The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, addressing the issue of the declining child sex ratio image (CSR). It got more highlighted when the sarpanch of Bibipur-Haryana village, posted a selfie with his daughter on Facebook, with hash tag #SelfieWithDaughter, a few months later. BBBP scheme, as the name suggests, is about Save and Educate a Girl Child, and when you educate a girl, you are investing in a potential and productive future of the country. Education is the foundation brick of a life. Everyone has right to be educated, but these days, educational institutions are not proving safe for the children.
The educational system should also be designed keeping the needs of the students. The distance of school from the house, city, or a village is also a matter of concern. Safety needs to be ensured here.A lot of girl students drop out from schools due to this. In this context, Divya Jain, CEO and Founder, Safeducate shared, "On a personal level and organizationally, we believe in diversity at the workplace and equal opportunity irrespective of gender or economic profile. We in our own way, through Safeducate, are committed to the cause and encourage households in the communities and localities in the proximity of our centers to send daughters and women to take up skill programs and training. Following the program they undergo, we also assist with placement in best of companies who have partnered with us for their requirement of a skilled workforce – and women candidates have been successfully placed in such organisations.”
On these lines, Dr Geeta Baruah Nath, Head of Deptt., Gynaecology, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, emphasized, “Parents play a big role in raising the male and girl child equally, and in teaching good values from the childhood, such as respecting women and social norms, and about bad touch; not to indulge in drugs or alcohol, which in a way catalyzes violence and promote rape. Finally, education in all sections of the society to enhance mental health is the key to prevent violence and rape for which we all must come together.”
She also opined, “While boys and men too experience the abuse, but a majority of victims are female & a majority of the perpetrators of violence are boys and men. It’s unfair to generalize the blame as maximum number of men have never raped or sexually assaulted anyone; yet they play a crucial role in the prevention of rape. It’s a fact that sexual violence will not end until men become part of the solution. Men must stop considering women as a mere object and when they see women as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, & use derogatory language, which sends a message that females are less than fully human. Everyone must speak up whenever they witness any kind of intimidating behaviour that may promote violence and rape. We must contribute towards making a safe society by generating awareness and by supporting the rape victims to sail through the most difficult period of their life. Violence cannot be prevented by limiting the freedom of girls or by judging them how they choose to dress up. Men should not believe that expressing feelings is not masculine, so that they can have a deeper nonviolent more meaningful interpersonal relationship. To prevent rape and violence in married life or any relationship, men must understand that ' No' means 'No' and Silence does not mean Consent.”
Neha Gupta, Founder of BHeard Consulting Pvt. Ltd. Added to this context. “The #MeToo is not just a #, it’s a story of what our boys have grown up to. It calls for the change in our community. Educating boys about respecting girls and women need to start right at childhood. The Dads of today need to model the behaviour which we want to see repeated because boys watching today will be the men tomorrow.”
Dr. Rita Bakshi, Senior Gynaecologist and Founder, International Fertility Centre, talked about Good Touch and Bad Touch. “It is really important in today’s times to enkindle and awaken the light of Good and Bad Touch right from the beginning years of the child that they might experience in their daily life but they must know to differentiate between the right and the wrong. Undeniably, this topic must be catered to in the school and child care centres even at a very young age for the children to be aware, sensitive and conscious. Not only schools, but the parents and family members must take on themselves to teach the child about the good and the bad touch. While parents explain the children about it, they must keep it light, easy and relaxed. It is important for the parent to let their children take the full ownership of the body and trust them. They must empower and endow their children to say no whenever they feel the need to or dislike the actions and body language of someone. Parents must also believe, acknowledge and take action against as and when their children come up a grievance, even if it is regarding a close family member.” True that!
Ms. Simantini Ghosh, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Ashoka University, Haryana, India thickened the discussion by sharing this: “The appalling child sexual abuse (CSA) statistics in India tells us that 1 out of 2 kids have experienced some form of CSA and this happens in every single demographic. We also have a huge body of evidence showing us that CSA can leave devastating and life long psychological detriments on survivors, including full blown mental illness, their lives are marked by trust issues, inabilities to form meaningful relationships and most dangerously, a pattern of falling victims repeatedly to sexual predators, even as adults. It is therefore imperative that we teach children about good touches and bad touches from a very young age. Children can be given the ownership of their own bodies when they are 2-3 years of age... Further, adding to the swimsuit rule (no one except parents or trusted adults touch body parts that a swimsuit covers), parents should also tell them that anyone rubbing their back, kissing them or touching their hairs in a way that makes them uncomfortable or frightened is enough to report. Finally, a word for parents, most predators and perpetrators are people who are known to the child, so please trust your children first. In our culture boys usually grow up watching themselves and the men in the family getting preferential treatment, assertive and decision-making powers to a much greater extent than women. Sometimes women themselves become enforcers of these dictats. This in turn builds a sense of entitlement in them, and all this, ultimately ties back to the abnormally high levels of violence against women in India. Rather than teaching boys to respect women in words, the focus should shift to giving women equity in the household. Children model behaviour they grow up around, so the best approach is to raise them in families where women are not subjugated or disrespected. Secondly, all stereotypes starting from “Girls cannot fight” to “Real men don’t rape” are equally lethal for gender sensitivity. The next time you see your son say “You fight like a girl” to anyone, please remind them of Geeta and Babita Phogat or Mary Kom. If you have teenagers at home, please don’t selectively enforce curfews or monitor activities on your girls while giving your boys a free reign.”
Ms. Vrutika Dawda, Director, IdeateLabs, aptly mentioned, “What we need today is to ensure that gender in-discrimination is inculcated in our education system. While we all agree that men and women are different, what we need to also agree is that both need to be treated equally and with fairness, from education to opportunity. Equal opportunity means evaluation on skill alone and not on gender.”
Talking about action-oriented initiatives, which are undoubtedly imperative to be put in place, Wajid Khan, Artistencouraged people to come forward and take action against these morale and social evils. “It is high time for the parents and teachers to heed towards this otherwise ignored topic to educate girls about good touch and bad touch. At a very young age kids are often vulnerable and become victims of the social evils that go unnoticed due to ignorance and absence of education to avoid it in the first place. School teachers and parents are the best source to impart knowledge on this topic. Through games, soft speech, one to one discussion or by any medium the kids must be made aware about their body and what type of touch is good and bad. Kids are fast learners and they will have questions which may or may not make sense. It becomes duty of the parents and teachers to handle it with wisdom and care without hurting the innocence and tender heart of kids. If this thing come into practice, then I believe child abuse and similar sorts of social evils will decrease significantly across the globe.”
On the occasion of International Day of Education (on January 24), lets tread as the legend APJ Kalam has said to bring in equality in rendering education, “Without your involvement, you cannot succeed. With involvement, you can never fail.”Evidently, now walking the talk should be implemented and right to education and equal education for all should be put in place.