India, despite being called Bharat Mata, there is non-existent respect and regard for women, especially a girl. Keeping aside the debate for girl safety and rising rape culture, girls often have to fight the battle within their own family.
Safeena Hussain, a graduate from the London School of Economics, and a daughter of a very broad-minded father had nearly missed the opportunity because her father’s friends and relatives dissuaded him to invest in his daughter’s education as they believed it was eventually going to be a waste. Safeena was lucky that her father stuck to his guns and even sold his business to fund his daughter’s education.
However, Safeena found that not all girls are lucky. She found issues such as female illiteracy, child marriage, dowry, teenage pregnancy and associated mortality plaguing the country. In 2007, she ran a small test project called Educate Girls which helped girls in villages to pursue education. She and her team went door to door to enrol girls and motivate them to attend the school on regular basis. Today, Educate Girls have expanded to 1,20,000 schools in nine districts in Rajasthan and one in Madhya Pradesh, impacting 15 lakh girls annually.
While Safeena’s battle was easy, Kailash Satyarthi’s battle left him with scars as he was attacked by iron rods, cricket bats and worse. He fought textile mills that bought girls into bonded labour schemes and mica mines that endangered the lives of girls from poor families forced by their circumstances. Irom Sharmila, recognized for the world’s longest hunger strike started a movement against army rapes 16 years ago and her resolve hasn’t broken yet.
But it’s not only a few handful people that are making world a better place for girls. Dharhara, a small village in Bhagalpur, Bihar saw a small change turn into a massive movement for girls. The villages plant a mango tree on the occasion of birth of a daughter and any money that is earned from the sale of these mangoes goes towards the daughters’ education and marriage. The annual income is approximately 2 lakhs, which reduces the burden to earn more on the father and hence the village has seen a healthy sex ratio i.e. 957 females for every 1000 males, which is better than the sex ratios in most villages of the country.
On the occasion of International Girl Child Day, we hope these people serve as an inspiration and you pledge to make a small change in your own way for the betterment of girls.