When many of my friends kept sharing messages such as “Save the girl child", "Say no to discrimination" etc. on social networking sites on October 11th (International day of the girl child), it set me thinking. How many people across the globe really care for this cause? How many people really understand the seriousness of this cause? Since, I work mostly with non-profits in rural India; I know that people in rural India have no clue about International Day of the girl. Forget the importance of the day; I don’t think they even care about the girl child. I strongly feel that there is much more that educated folks could do than just posting on social networking sites.
Gender Inequality is something that is very noticeable in rural India. A girl child is considered a burden. Her education is given least importance. The girls are married off starting at an age as early as 14. One can see girls as young as 18 already having 1-2 kids and running a family. Most of the times, the age difference between the girl and her husband is as high as 20 years. So most women lose their husbands at a very young age and are widows for the rest of their lives. Remarriage is a taboo, so the women fear the society and struggle to support their kids and themselves. Considering the educational background, one can understand that the skillset of the womenfolk is very limited. Their daily life includes cooking and daily chores. Some women work in the fields as laborers for Rs.60 per day. (They are not even aware of the fact that according to the Indian Government, the minimum wage is Rs.100 per day) Only a few own farms, few others work as laborers and few others are familiar with goat rearing and poultry. They have no source of income and hence they are always dependent financially on others.
Female feticide is another issue. Although gender identification before birth is banned in India, most families in rural India illegally find out the gender of the child. There are people who will go to any end to have the female fetus aborted. Every day, we hear stories of people who drowned the new born girl child, threw the newborns in the dustbin, and left them on the streets, more horrifying stories - left the newborns for the dogs to eat! I loathe myself for writing something so horrific and spoiling your day, but yes, that is the HARSH reality.
Why is it that a girl child is considered such a burden in India? I see two fundamental reasons.
1) Vulnerability - We hear stories of gang rape, sexual assaults every day. No place is safe for women in India. Even the capital, Delhi is struggling to provide security to girls.
2) Dowry - The age old tradition of the parents of the girl child paying huge amounts of money, gold and property to the groom.
Parents fear that they may not be able to afford the dowry. In cases where they cannot find a groom, they fear the responsibility of the girl. There is no single solution that can solve this problem. One cannot continue to blame the government for everything. Every year, when we post a message, we need to ask ourselves, what have I done towards this cause over the past year?
Instead of sharing messages that keep circulating on social networking sites, there are some things that we can do - create awareness.
1) Spend one weekend with the uneducated urban slums and tell them about the importance of this cause.
2) Connect with an NGO that works for such causes and volunteer for them. (Even one hour a week is very much appreciated)
3) Travel to rural schools and volunteer to teach.
4) Spend few hours over a weekend and post flyers at rural/government hospitals.
5) Perform Street plays (not in urban malls, but in areas where people lack awareness)
I can think of so many ways! I understand that it takes effort to do something. I understand it is hard. But, if you feel for the cause, then aim to do something in that direction. Don’t just share for the sake of sharing. I do hope that you will do one such thing by October 11, 2013.