International Day of Girl Child: Need to create inclusive and empowering educational environment for girls


The newspaper headlines have often been screaming ‘Girls outperform boys’. While student performances are not gender-based or biased, it is heartening to see girls being well engaged and edging past in healthy competition. This is a result of concerted efforts to uplift and advance the girl child. Today, the time has come where we focus on the girl child in rural areas if we need to see a renaissance in our society.

International Day of the Girl Child (IDG), which is being observed for over a decade now, is one such key step. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared October 11 as the day to recognise the girl child’s rights, the unique challenges they face across the world and how to address these problems. The UN declared that girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, not only during critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. The body also recognised, if effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world by being empowered workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads and political leaders.

India has come a long way since Independence in achieving healthy literacy figures. The country’s average literacy rate stood at 77.70%, with literate males at 84.70% and literate females at 70.30%, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) and National Statistical Office: NSO (2021 and 2022). While there is still a lot of ground to cover in terms of achieving gender parity and improving the overall numbers, the efforts taken by the government and the education sector as a whole are slowly bearing fruits.

Make Every School in India a Haven for Girls

Recognising the importance of gender parity in enrolment and completion of education in creating an equitable nation, the government laid down the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020). The policy envisages education for every child, with special focus girl children and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This aspect could be a game changer for India because it is a fact that the dropout rate for girls continues to be high after primary levels and the enrolment rate slips at secondary and higher secondary levels. One of the reasons cited for this is lack of toilets forcing girls to leave schools on the onset of menstruation.

To illustrate this, let’s discuss the role of a school in a child’s life. The school is  the second home for girls since it helps to  build s in them confidence and give courage to carve an identity for themselves . Schools as  an institution, are the foundation for individuals, economies and nations. Therefore, every school in the country needs to have certain basic facilities in place, including clean and equipped classrooms, trained and empathetic teachers, healthy meals and hygienic toilets. Gender Inclusion Fund (GIF), an integral part of NEP 2020, should be able to address these issues, especially that of safe and hygienic toilets.

Health and nutrition is a critical area that needs addressing. While steps such as mid-day meal programmes are in place, the government can budget a portion of GIF exclusively to provide supplementary meals/supplements for girls to counter the rampant issue of malnourishment among women. Also, schools need to be the place where children recognise and respect each other regardless of their gender. Gender sensitisation should be made part of curriculum as should sex education, menstrual health and hygiene.

Educate the girl child to tap their incredible potential

Former PepsiCo CEO and among the world’s most powerful women Indra Nooyi emphatically said, “I don’t believe there’s any economy in the world that can be successful without tapping into the incredible potential of women going forward. I just don’t believe that’s possible.” And how right this statement is!

Many countries and cultures still perceive boys as potential breadwinners. One way to alter this perception is to present girls with opportunities at the developmental level itself. In fact, the best way to tap the incredible potential of women is to ensure they are equipped with the right skills as part of education so that they are ready to be inducted into the workforce.

A progressive way forward is to introduce compulsory skill enhancement and vocational courses as part of regular curriculum so that the girls, regardless of their economic background, are equally equipped to join the country’s workforce.

One area where every country needs to focus on is the right of every girl child towards legal literacy. This will go a long way in securing their futures and give them the power to tap their incredible potential.

Focus on inclusivity and empowerment of girls

One of India’s definitive steps towards inclusivity and empowerment has been the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao welfare programme. This scheme ensures every girl is protected with inclusive benefits, including access to quality education and the right to inherit her family’s property. Supplemented by programmes such as Balika Samriddhi Yojana and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, these schemes are attempts to, first, break the stigma surrounded around the birth of a girl, and then, give them opportunities to become ‘contributing members’ of the society and economy.

India is a key player in the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both as a formulator and a driver. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of these goals. Promoting gender equality and ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. Only by protecting the rights of girls and women, nations can ensure security and sustenance for future generations.

The author is the director of Singhania Group of Schools, and principal of Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane. Views expressed are personal

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International Day of Girl Child: Need to create inclusive and empowering educational environment for girls
International Day of Girl Child: Need to create inclusive and empowering educational environment for girls
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