While celebrating the ‘National Girl Child Day’ today, it is time to reiterate the commitment to be part of the world where girls are celebrated, cherished and treated equally with love and respect like their male counter- parts. It is quite unfortunate that even today in many com- munities across India the birth of a girl child is not wel- comed. The result is that right from her birth she faces dis- crimination, humiliation, and oppression at every stage of life. When it comes to healthcare, education and growth opportunities, she stands neglected because of her gender.
While some manage to survive and find new paths to follow, most of them are left with no option except to surrender hopelessly to the sad fate assigned to them. What an Irony?
In communities rife with gender inequalities and an underly- ing nature of patriarchy, girl children often find themselves at the short end of the stick. Discrimination against girls is ram- pant and due to the fear of abuse and exploitation, they are kept at home and not sent to school. Child marriage is yet another glaring issue due to which girls are forced to give up going to school at an early age. This disparity and discrimi- nation against her is the result of the systemic defect in the mindset of the people of such communities. What is urgent- ly required today is a change of mindset and attitude of the people belonging to these communities. They need to understand and realize that girls must be provided the same opportunities and protection as boys, and must be treated at par with them. A girl’s childhood can and must be preserved, cherished, nurtured and protected. After all she too has the right to survive, develop, be protected and participate in decisions that impact her life. The issue of girl child rights and protection in India is a very serious concern. Being home to more than one third of the 10 million child brides in the world, India has one of the highest numbers of girls forced into marriage before the legal age of 18. If one half of the society remains so vulnerable to violence and neglect, how will the country advance or progress? Not only are they unsafe at home where they are victims of stereotypical atti- tude, but also in learning environments. Ill equipped schools that lack separate toilets for girls are one of the major deter- rents for parents not willing to send their girls to study. The few who manage to attend school risk violence and abuse.
This lack of safety deprives young girls of an opportunity to educate themselves and better their lives. In order to make sure that girl children get equal access to all the facilities and opportunities, we need to tackle the mindset that will pave the way for a conducive atmosphere to achieve the desired target. Simultaneously, there is a need to Prioritize education that helps to create attitudinal shifts; Breaking myths and stereotypes around gender; Ensuring State accountability to implement various schemes, policies, laws, constitutional guarantees and international commitments; Institutionalizing gender sensitive processes within various systems such as law and other programmes; Encouraging community ownership in preventing violations faced by girls; Demanding a healthy budget allocation for the girl child and last but not the least building women leaders from the com- munity through sensitization programmes that help them understand their rights and ensure it for all girls and women.
So let’s all reiterate the commitment to aggressively raise awareness about Girl Child Rights among the communities across the nation at individual level as well as by being part of the government and NGOs working towards protecting girl child rights.