Over 28 lakh girls, in the age group of 6 to 13 years, are out of school in India. It is crucial for us to understand the importance of supporting girl child education so we can contribute towards the development of our nation.
Here are the top 10 reasons to support girl child education in India
1. Empowered women and girls
Educated girls and women are aware of their rights and can make informed decisions for themselves. They develop the ability to critically analyze their choices and can stand up to violence and discrimination against themselves. Education also gives girls an opportunity to lead a healthy and happy life.
2. Prevention of early and forced marriages
Lack of education is one of the major causes of early and forced marriages. There are 223 million child brides in India. 102 million of them were married before turning 15 years old.
Early and forced marriages prevent girls from going back to school, make them more vulnerable to domestic violence, which may cause teenage pregnancies and reproductive health issues.
Educating girls will raise awareness and hence empower them to make their own decisions about marriage and stand up against forced marriages.
3. Increased political participation
Women are currently underrepresented in politics across the world. Lack of representation of women results in the further exclusion of women in policymaking. Educated women are more likely to participate in political decision making and discussions.
Women account for 49 percent of the population in India. Despite making up almost half the country, they have less than 15 percent representation in the Parliament. Girl child education will help bridge this gap and result in better inclusion of women in policymaking.
4. Reduced mortality rates
Educating girls will help reduce the high mortality rates in India. Several studies have proved that educated women are more likely to give birth to healthier babies and are healthier themselves. This is because they have more agency to decide when they wish to give birth and how to take care of their health.
The five Indian states — Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, have the highest under-five mortality rate. These are the states where the percentage of women with more than 10 years of schooling is less than the national average of 35.7%.
While on the other hand, the five states with the lowest under-five mortality rate — Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Tamil Nadu are also the states where the percentage of women with more than 10 years of schooling is much higher than the national average.
5. Increased economic growth
Education is essential for a country to achieve high economic growth. Women in India make up half the population but face barriers entering the workforce because of certain social norms that dictate them to stay at home to take care of their families.
Educating girls will enable women to participate in the workforce and contribute to the country’s economic growth. It is estimated that by educating girls and giving women equal opportunities, India could increase its GDP by more than 18% — $770 billion — 2025.
6. Better jobs and income for women
Lack of education further hinders them from taking jobs, especially dignified jobs and forces them to be economically dependent on their father, brothers, husbands. Educating girls will give them the opportunity to build their skills and pursue dignified jobs.
Studies have suggested that for every extra year a girl goes to school, her future income is increased by 15% approximately.
7. Healthier and educated children
Educated women are more aware of healthcare and hence more capable of keeping themselves and their children healthy. Educated women also understand the importance of education and are more likely to educate their children as compared to illiterate women.
The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNSS) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare studied 1.2 lakh children and indicated that children of the higher levels of schooling among mothers received better diets. Thus, proving that education levels of mothers are directly linked to their children’s health.
8. Reduce sexually transmitted diseases
Girl child education also helps reduce Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and reproductive health problems. STDs are often treated as taboos in many conservative societies, preventing people from even talking about them. Often these diseases go ignored and result in further health problems.
Education helps raise awareness about the prevention of STDs. Educated girls and women can overcome the societal barrier and taboos surrounding the diseases and ensure they stay healthy.
9. Population Control
Lack of education forced girls into early marriages, resulting in early pregnancies and a higher number of children as compared to education girls. According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015–16 (NFHS-4), a woman with 12 years or more of education has her first child at an approximate of 24.7 years.
Further, in India 12 years or more of education for girls reduces the chances of teenage pregnancy and increase the intervals between children. Thus, educating the girl child is the first step towards controlling the population of the country.
10. Mitigation of disaster risks
Women play a crucial role in saving their families during disasters and they are also among the most affected by a disaster. They pay more attention to the welfare of their family members and the safety of their children and elders.
Additionally, they are worst hit by a disaster because after a disaster passes they need to take care of their children, fetch clean water, and find the means to cook food. Women and girls also become more vulnerable to sexual violence due to the lack of safe shelter and toilets.
Thus, it is important to involve women and girls in disaster risk reduction programmes. It is imperative for women to have the means to sustain themselves and their families and be aware of the risks involved post-disaster.