It’s not about individual women; it’s about a system
It is may not be a noteworthy news that many women are able to read this statement, but it may be quite a concerning thought that over 62 million girls around the world have less or no access to education. As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka - Executive Director of UN Women has rightly said, “Educate a woman, you educate a nation,” implying the urgency in creating a space of equal opportunities for education for girls and women.
On occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, this year’s theme set by the United Nations (UN) is ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force.’ The UN's mission statement says, ‘The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.’
The whole heart and soul of this day and this theme is to realize the importance of investing in the necessary education, skills, training, and opportunities required for employability of women through access to communication and resources. That includes a quality workplace that ensures environmental, financial, and social justice.
Of the 600 million adolescent girls that will enter the workforce across sectors, in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work for a low or no pay, which often accompanies abuse and exploitation of various forms.
Universally, early and child marriage preceded by early pregnancy has proved to predominantly cut down the opportunities or even the means to pursue an education or get into the workforce. This leads to poorer chances of financial independence which ultimately leads to a lower self-esteem. The condition is very prevalent in under-developed and developing countries. Hence there is a pressing need to eliminate contributing factors that urge young girls to drop out of school and virtually end their chances of getting further educated.
By providing opportunities in education and employment we are ensuring much greater chances for women to sustain dignity and add value to their contributions as potential thinkers and worthy of making a difference. And it starts with raising children – both boys and girls – about securing gender parity and establishing access to basic human rights. In fact, Hillary Clinton, American politician says that “Access to education is a basic right.”
The other aspects of protecting and empowering the girl remains a standstill – sexual, physical, and emotional safety that is denied fundamentally because of her gender. It is a call to redefine girlhood and womanhood by offering their deserved access to resources regarding puberty and sexual health and addressing issues around gender-based notions and biases.
Women within the Indian subcontinent are no alien to much of these issues faced around the world. It is a pride to remember the commendable couple, Jyotiba Phule and Savitri Bai who started the first school for girls in 1848. And it is no doubt that over the following century and a half, much improvement in the women educational sphere has taken place.
It is indeed a delight to see women break traditional and social constraints to make a difference to the whole of womanhood:
Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) – One of the most well-known female authors in the world, she was one of those women writers that emerged at a time when women were snubbed for writing.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821 - 1910) – The first woman to receive a medical degree in the US and the first woman to be on the UK Medical Register.
Marie Curie (1867 - 1974) – A French / Polish scientist. The first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the first person to win the Nobel Prize in two separate categories.
Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958) – British Chemist who made important contributions to understanding the structure of DNA and RNA.
Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ) – The first woman to host her own talk show, which focused on issues faced by American women.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 - ) – Opposed the threats of the Taliban as a Pakistani schoolgirl and campaigns for the women’s rights, especially the right to education.
With Entrepreneurship coming to the fore and women striving to find their deserved place in that sphere, there have been many inspiring women entrepreneurs taking center stage. Jain (Deemed-to-be University) is proud to be the temple of learning for a number of women – from the alumni, current, and incoming community of students. Having actively advocating respect for the womenfolk the University recently even conducted a roadshow to promote the Women Entrepreneurship Platform with discussions on 'Building a Conducive Ecosystem for Women Entrepreneurs' and the 'Journey and Lessons of a Woman Entrepreneur.' India alone has produced innumerable female potentials in all possible areas of growth and development of the nation and the world.
What we need is a harmonious and appropriate combination of girls & women and boys & men for a holistic and much robust life for all across the world. This is not a war between genders or even a race to prove one better than the other. It is simply a call for everyone, both young and old to realize and accept that she is a thinker; she is an innovator; she is a world-changer; she is a person – one that deserves dignity, space, and freedom of expression.
“It’s not about individual women; it’s about a system.”