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Girl Child Empowerment - From ‘What if it’s a girl’ to ‘Wow! It’s a girl!’

“It’s a girl”. These words have held different emotions in different eras. In ancient India, the birth of a girl child was celebrated no less than the birth of a son. However, the last few decades had seen women facing challenges from even before they are born to every aspect of their life. Women comprise almost half of the country’s population. Their empowerment is critical for the economy’s growth and development.

On 22 January 2015, when Prime Minister Modi first launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, he promptly showed his desire to work for the welfare of girls. “India’s Prime Minister is standing in front of you as a beggar. I have come here to beg for the life of the girl child”, Prime Minister Modi said after the successful launch of the scheme. His call represented the deep concern for a girl child’s well-beingin the present government. Not only has BBBP been welcomed by the people, it has also led to a substantial rise in sex ratio and education of the females. A state like Haryana, which was struggling the most from the past few decades, has significantly climbed up the ladder of sex ratio at birth from 871 in 2015 to 923 in 2019. In Haryana alone, around 25,000 girls have been saved in the last five years.

Further, when one looks at an all India picture, World Bank data reveals that 59.28 percent of women (ages 15 and above) were literate in 2011 and the percentage rose to 65.80 in 2018. Also, the percentage of girls getting pre-matric, post-matric, and merit-cum-means scholarship was 51, 55, and 31 respectively in 2014-15. The corresponding percentages rose to 53, 57, and 42 respectively in 2019-20.

Education comes with an array of other benefits such as higher representation in the labor market, participation in household decisions, and power to escape child marriage and domestic violence which implies that improvement in education is not merely a statistic but indicates that India is experiencing a generational shift in valuing and treating its girl child. Further, the government is not only ensuring that a girl child is born and gets education but is also promising the financial security of a girl child and accentuating the self-esteem of girls by starting the Sukanya Samriddhi Account which has a phenomenal impact on the future of girl children.

 

Post this, many such schemes ensured focus on the improvement in the status of girls. One such scheme is Swachh Bharat that has multi-faceted benefits. The construction of toilets has led to, for the first time, the girls's school enrolment to be more than that of boys. As mentioned in the budget speech of fiscal year 2020-21, the percentage of girls enrolled in elementary, secondary, and higher secondary is 94.23, 81.32, and 59.70 respectively while the percentage of boys enrolled in elementary, secondary, and higher secondary is 89.28, 78, and 57.50 respectively. Swachh Bharat has also saved girls from other life-threatening diseases that were caused due to open defecation. It accentuates women's status by saving their dignity and instilling more confidence in them. While receiving the Global Goalkeeper award for the Swachh Bharat mission, PM Modi said, "due to lack of toilets, many girls had to drop out from schooling midway. Our daughters want to study, but the lack of toilets had forced them to drop out from school and sit at home. It was the responsibility of my government to pull away the poor women and daughters of the country from this situation, and we have done it with all our strength and honesty.”

PM Modi has also made several amendments to existing laws and rules to deal with sexual offences against children.

"What if my firstborn is a girl child!” the fear that many pregnant women used to grapple with earlier has now been replaced with the happiness that every family feels when a girl child is born. This change in perceptions is the reflection of the successful implementation of the policies, and more we look at the statistics, more we are sure that monumental shift is underway. From improving the sex ratio to giving women more confidence to make their own decisions, the Indian government is working in every direction. It has widened the role of women from being a mere spectator to the driving force that is leading the growth and development of the economy. The women in today's era are independent, financially secure, confident, and know how to walk the path of success. Women in India now, not only dream but achieve.

Times have changed, from ‘What if it’s a girl’ to ‘Wow! It’s a girl!’ – and the Modi government has played a key role in ushering in this mindset transformation.

May 28, 2020