Thursday, January 24, 2013

Celebrating girls

Today, India is observing National Girl Child Day.

Manisha and Ashwini, 4th standard students
It may not seem like much, but it is at least a small start toward addressing the increasingly skewed sex ratio (which in Maharashtra is 883 girls under six for every 1,000 males, significantly below the 914:1000 national average) and attempting to draw attention to the systemic undervaluing of Indian girls.

We see gender preference on a daily basis at AIC. The two girls above, Manisha and Ashwini, were not enrolled in school when AIC began working in the Waghri community, and, if AIC was not fully supporting their educations and maintaining constant pressure on their families to allow them to attend school, most likely would not be enrolled today either. Both of their mothers have given birth to child after child in an effort to produce a sufficient number of boys and their families' resources are stretched too thin as a result. Both of these girls would routinely go hungry if they did not receive their meals at the Education Outreach Centre, as the food that is available in their households is preferentially distributed and they are unlucky enough to be daughters, not sons. Both of these girls would be (and to some extent still are) at risk of having their marriages arranged upon reaching adolescence, as was the case for their mothers. Both of these girls would still be begging on the streets every day if they did not spend almost every waking hour at the Education Centre or school. In the absence of comprehensive medical care provided by AIC, both of these girls would receive medical care only if it was deemed absolutely necessary, and even then, only if their families had the resources at hand.

Change is happening, but it is slow to occur. So while we at AIC work toward this change, girl by girl, day after day, we welcome national initiatives to draw attention the issues at hand. 

Happy National Girl Child Day!

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