There may be celebrations as actresses Priyanka Chopra and Freida Pinto became part of the launch of the ‘Girl Rising’s India’ campaign aimed at changing the lives of girls across the country. When a campaign is launched in a star-studded show, it is naturally a time for celebration.
“The time has come when instead of questioning why we should educate girls, we should be asking why not. When we know that educating a girl can change the world, why wait? With Girl Rising, we will change that”, Freida Pinto was quoted as saying.
“I have been a part of the Girl Rising campaign since inception and am honoured to be able to bring this powerful idea to India. If more girls are educated, all of India stands to gain”, Priyanka Chopra was reported to have chimed in.
This sounds so good, so wonderful, so very much pleasant to the parched ears of all those who have spent lifetimes promoting education for girls. It is really music to their ears.
Yet, a serious and complex question also stems from the celebration: Why is it that India still needs such a campaign? Why is it that Indian society has not learnt to educate its girls despite the great efforts by so many social reformers for the past one-hundred-plus years? Why has not the Government pushed girls’ education in a true sense all these six-plus decades? Why is it that our political community has done only lip service to the cause rather than doing the right thing?
This is a serious and comprehensive question. This is an issue that needs serious pondering over by the Indian society, not just through seminars and symposia, but through actual action at all places — from homes to schools to social institutions to sports to industry to arts academies, to scientific laboratories and finally to the Government and its department of education.
In fact, it is time the Indian society’s leaders declared themselves guilty of not having done the right thing in good enough measure to promote education of girls.
Was it not a moment of shame that the nation had to wait for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to identify one of the causes why girls give up schooling? It was he who first felt that girls left school in good numbers because the schools did not have proper toilet facilities for them.
This was not a new but a shameful revelation to all. But that is of course not the only reason which the Prime Minister may be aware of. There are social reasons for the girl child drop outs from schools. They are pushed back into homes to care for the younger siblings, to cook and clean and do domestic chores to help their mothers who go out for work. The girl child is always at a secondary priority list.
But, most unfortunately, the larger Indian society never realised all this. It never spared much thought to why Indian girls, as a whole, did not stick to school for adequate number of years. And still, nobody felt a sense of collective shame.
And now comes the Girl Rising India campaign, in the sophisticated Americas. And therefore, all the so-called elite Indians will discuss the issue over coffee-cold-with-ice-cream in their cosy drawing rooms sitting by the fireplace! In those discussions, the concern for girls’ education would be sorely missing. The core issue in those discussions would be ‘they’ — that is everybody else but those few there — ignored girls’ education all these years.
This hurts deep down. This makes one feel very sad that educating girls is still not an integral part of modern India’s religion of social and societal advancement.
And, now, even as the Prime Minister and many others try to put a collective best foot forward as regards girls’ education, the country as a whole still lumbers along without enthusiasm, as if a chore has to be completed, a formality has to be gone through, a ritual has to be solemnised.
What a shame!