In 2012, the United Nations declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child. The day highlights and addresses various needs and the challenges that girls face. A different theme is chosen every year for the celebration. The themes have been varying from ‘Ending the Child Marriage’ in 2012 to ‘Girl Force – Unscripted and Unstoppable’ in 2019.
Women contribute to half the numbers of the human race and are active participants and contributors to the development of society. Despite this, we still need a day to create awareness about the challenges and struggles they go through every day. It is a way to shed light on the real plight of girls in today’s world. A girl child faces numerous challenges – from discrimination based on gender to fighting for access to basic human rights.
Education is one of the most important ways to empower a girl child. But millions of girls in the developing world haven’t even gone to school. According to the 2016 UNESCO Report, 130 million girl children between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary school age never have the opportunity to study in primary schools. It is even more disheartening to know the status of girl child education in India. According to a report, India has the largest illiterate population in the world with the level being below the World Average Literacy rate of 84 percent.
Educate and Empower Girl Child
In the words of Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, “Empowering a woman starts with educating a girl. If each and every girl on the earth is not educated, the chances of achieving the dream and vision of empowering the girl child will remain unfulfilled.” But how does it play a role in empowering the girl child?
- Education gives girls much greater power – enabling and empowering them to make genuine choices about life. An opportunity for girls to choose a healthier and happier life is a good enough reason to educate and empower a girl child.
- According to studies from various countries, every extra year of schooling of girls increases the women’s future earnings by about 15 percent, as compared to 11 percent for a man. It implies that an educated woman will be highly productive at work and better paid.
- According to cross-country studies, every extra year of schooling for girls can reduce fertility rates up to 10 percent. Nevertheless, the children of an educated mother are more likely to survive.
- A girl empowered through education will have the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence that enable the woman to be a better parent, an employee, and a responsible citizen.
- An educated girl is capable of sharing the burden of men in the different walks of life, where the economic crisis is prevalent.
Though from 2012 to 2019, we have seen progress in the area of empowering the girl child, there is still scope for improvement. Providing quality education with skill development in a safe environment is still a yet-to-be-achieved goal. To ensure empowerment of a girl child in the truest sense, let us encourage girls to make apt choices through better skills, capabilities, and self-esteem. Let’s encourage them to develop equitable relations within the family, community, and other stakeholders in society.