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What challenges young girls face in India and why education is so important

Renee Schreurs

If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).

This well-known saying is attributed to the Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875-1927), one of this century's greatest educators. Right to education is a civil and political right similar to economic, cultural and social right. There would be immeasurable benefits to be achieved by nation through reducing women’s gender, class and geographic inequalities in education and by providing them access to employment and resources.

As per a Unicef report, educating girls yields spectacular social benefits for the current generation and those to come. An educated girl tends to marry later and have healthier children. The children she does have will be more likely to survive; they will be better nourished and better educated. She will be more productive at home and better paid in the workplace. She will be better able to protect herself against HIV/AIDS and to assume a more active role in social, economic and political decision-making throughout her life.

The state of Kerala can be held as a model state to analyse the impact of educating the girl child, on society. Kerala, having the highest literacy level among girls in the country also boasts of low infant mortality rate, low birth rate and low death rates as compared to the rest of the country. Further, on other parameters such as nutrition status of children, natal care, post natal check ups, immunizations – Kerala is miles ahead of states like Bihar, Orissa where literacy rates of women are lower than the nation’s average.

Women account for roughly half the world's population, perform two-thirds of the hours worked, receive one-tenth of the world's income, and have less than one hundredth of the world's property registered in their names. An educated woman’s household is more likely to prosper as a result of a higher overall income. Just one extra year of secondary education can increase a woman’s income as much as 25% a year. If female schooling raises human capital, productivity, and economic growth as much as male schooling does, then women's disadvantage in education is economically inefficient. Research world-wide shows that, in general, the economic benefits from women's education - calculated as the economic rate of return to education - are comparable to those from men's education. Thus, from the point of view of economic efficiency, the gender gap in education is undesirable.

Women are a subclass in India. It has been a constant challenge for the Indian government, specially amongst increase in women’s population and decrease in their education level. With the help special provisions under the RTE 2009, Sarvashikshan Abhiyan, Nation Education Policy, Beti Bachoa Beti Padoa Andolan, the Government is drawing focus on the importance of educating the girl child. However, culture plays the role of a biggest obstacle in the way of the right to education of a girl child, especially in rural India. Many families consider that marriage is more important to their daughter than education. Marriage grants girls an adult status and makes them accept responsibilities of parenting and domestic work. If a girl does not marry early, as a penalty to her parents, the patriarchal society makes them double dowry to be paid. It is considered wise to invest in the education of the male child, as the girl’s primary objective is marriage and childbearing.

MHRD website -

MHRD website -

Based on the Censes 2011, female literacy rate in India is lower than that of their counterparts at 64.6% and even lower at 56.5% and 49.5% amongst the schedule caste and schedule tribes women. Further, amongst the schedule tribe, the gender parity index above the senior-secondary level of education is under 1, indicating a high dropout rate/reluctance to go (or to be sent) to schools on hitting puberty.

MHRD website -

MHRD website -

The solution lies in the change in mind set of the society towards educating a girl and promote gender equality. Discrimination based on sex must be nipped in the bud by increasing awareness of benefits in educating the girl child, propagating the ideology that men and women are two sides of the same coin—a girl is as much a part of the society as is a boy. They are both the futures of tomorrow.

We as a nation must focus on empowering our women through education, making schools more accessible to them, increase projects focusing on educating young mothers, young brides in helping them build their own thought process, enabling them to break away from the shackles of this patriarchal society and think for themselves. As the 69th Australian Prime Minister said – Those of us who have benefitted so much from our education, should feel powerfully obliged to do so. It’s what every girl and every community deserves, and it is in our hands to deliver.


Pouch Address, UNICEF Liberia - When You Educate a Girl, You Educate a Nation

Rapid survey on Children 2013 – 2014, Ministry of women and child development, GOI

Julia Gillard and Cate Blanchett - Educate women and their community will prosper. Deny them education and the world will suffer (Wednesday 1 October 2014 01.08)

Education of women and socio-economic development by Geeta Gandhi Kingdon published in Reason and Revelation: Studies in the Babi and Baha'i Religions, volume 13

MHRD website -