Just how distant a dream going to school remains for girls in India is borne out in the new data on female literacy.
According to this study, the proportion of girls who finished five years of primary school in India is 48%, which is far lower than Nepal (92%), Pakistan (74%) and Bangladesh (54%). The data also shows that only 15% of Indian women who studied till Class II can read a sentence.
Gender, location and poverty remain such huge barriers for a majority of girls in India today. The bias against educating girls keeps them vulnerable to female infanticide, early marriage, gender violence, and sex trafficking.
This can only change when education comes to be seen as a vital necessity for everyone, regardless of gender, rather than an advantage that only the privileged have.
Investing in every girl’s education has to be seen as critical for social and economic development, for lifting households out of poverty.
Educating girls is necessary to reduce the number of child marriages, which remain high in large parts of India even today despite being against the law. Studies show that women who get a secondary school education are 92% less likely to be forced into an early marriage. This in turn makes them vulnerable to early pregnancies, domestic violence, HIV and depression.
Education also has a direct link to lower maternal and infant mortality rates. It helps build awareness about better hygiene, vaccinations and nutrition. It enables more informed choices on matters like family planning and employment. Studies show that women who have had the opportunities to go to school are two times more likely to send their own kids to school.
All of which make compelling arguments to ensure we do more to send every girl in India to school.