Promoting Gender Equality
Education Support for Older Girls
Chancellor Amma in her keynote address at the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) held at New York on 8th July 2015, mentioned the importance of educating women. "In some villages, women have no education and are illiterate, so their husbands easily exploit them by forging their signatures even for what little government aid they could have received. This is why we have started literacy programs for women."
The village of Dagara, Gujarat, is one of three villages rebuilt from rubble by the M.A.Math after the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. While the village has become more prosperous than before, girls are not allowed to go outside the village for education past Class 8. A teacher was hired to take classes for the dropped out girls- some of whom were married with children and had been out of school for 8 years. In March, 2015 the first batch of 8 girls took the 10th class, state-standard exam. 7 passed with more than 60% marks. Meera, mother of a 2-year old girl, scored the highest, with 88.8%. In such villages as Dagara, we are trying to upgrade the local school up to 12th grade. Along with it, we give awareness classes to the local villagers on equal education for women. Inclusive Education is the key element of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Quality Education. It includes educating and empowering children, including girls of illiterate or neo-literates, families in poverty, indigenous tribal communities and scheduled castes. Though many villages have far fewer girls in schools, our intervention has raised the awareness about education and overall we have impacted more girls than boys.
Gender Equality Awareness
“In God’s creation, men and women are equal. Women, who give birth to human kind, should be allowed an equal role in the society.”-Amma.
Despite progress in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of - lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013.
At our education centers in AmritaServe villages, we have a gender ratio of 51% girls to 49% boys. The child-friendly environment promotes gender equality in the classroom by providing an overall gender- sensitive environment that is conducive to development.
RITE also strives to create awareness in the community by introducing certain non-intrusive practices that do not offend the cultural sensitivity of the village. For example, in Rajasthan, where gender inequality is so high that the culture forbids mothers from sitting on the same level as their older male children, we introduced a tradition of honoring elderly women. Young school going children, both boys and girls, are encouraged to honor elderly people- men and women- by garlanding them, touching their feet and giving them a gift. It is believed that this non-intrusive practice, done without gender bias, will encourage gender-equality advocacy among the younger generation.
Adolescent Girl Health
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during their critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders. The condition of adolescent girls has been poor in the areas of obtaining quality secondary and higher education, avoiding child marriage, receiving information and services related to puberty and reproductive health, and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and gender-based violence.
In Amma’s adopted villages, Amrita RITE strives to raise the self esteem of adolescent girls at this critical time in their life through workshops and activities. We provide awareness to girls on menstrual health and proper nutrition. We encourage girls to report sexual violence and child marriage. We give them awareness on the benefits of education and support them to seek higher education.
Delaying Age of Marriage
In many states in India, such as Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Andhra and Telengana, child marriage is still a reality. According to official statistics, an alarming 50% of girls between the age of 20 and 24 are married before legal age. Under-age marriage is a major cause of problems in reproductive health, physical growth, emotional and mental development in adolescent girls and young-adult women.
Often, child marriage stems from deep-rooted customs and culture of the local community. It is not easy to break this cycle of illiteracy, gender discrimination, and malnutrition that are a contributing factor. Nevertheless, Amrita RITE works with the local community to spread awareness on the ill effects of child marriage and teach the importance of delaying marriage until completion of education. RITE also educates parents of girls about government schemes and incentives that support getting an education and delaying the age of marriage.