Girls’ Empowerment! A Call to Action by Lakshmi Vijaykumar

As a young child, I often envied my brother being able to play in the park nearby irrespective of the clock ticking away to darkness in the evening, with his friends. While I always had a Cinderella time (not till midnight, of course) up to 6 pm or when the sun sets – whichever was early — and I was supposed to be seen sitting in my room and not seen kicking a football or a hitting a ball to a six!

When I got into my teens, hoping for more freedom of play, matters got worst. My Cinderella time was further brought down by an hour and sometimes it even got extended to days!!!

Now, when I look around myself, I feel not much has changed. Matters have gone worst, with parents (including myself) unable to let their kids play anywhere outside the confines of their homes without the fear of safety. Yes, gadgets have taken over our lives leaving our children to spend more time on LCD screens. Gone are the days when children enjoyed the hot sun or danced in the rains. Well, that’s a different subject and we will talk about it in a different article.

Coming back to what the modern day society has to offer to our kids, if the urban India is clouded with fears of safety and other related issues, families from the under privileged communities even dread sending their girls to school. Those who are courageous enough to break barriers and send their girls to education, often drop out of the schools early leaving their journey of empowerment midway.

Given that educating girls is certainly one of the methods of breaking the cycles of poverty, there are a few easy ways that we as a society on the whole can make a difference in the lives of all those thousands of young Puthris waiting to be empowered and get on to the world stage.

Facilitate schools to provide basic hygiene in schools

Most schools that cater to the under-privileged communities lack basic hygiene and sanitation facilities in their premises. All schools must be able to provide clean drinking water and neat toilets for the parents to feel safe while sending their little angels to the school.

Be the Voice of God

In the lesser privileged communities, it is noted that while women in families are forthcoming to educate their daughters, their voices somewhere get lost amid strong patriarchal set ups. As a result, girls who are intentional about their learning and acquiring knowledge. Provide those women and their younger ones the vocal cord they need. Use your voice to enable girls to break barriers and come out of their shackles.

Help a new mom

A large number of young girls from the rural community drop out of schools the day their moms give birth to second ones. It would be a great idea for you to extend a hand in some form to a new mom. Offer them cloth diapers, blankets, drinking water, soap, and other essential items to those who are in utmost need. This will prevent infant deaths, ensure healthier child and mom. And, in cases where the woman is mothering an older one as well, such enablers will lessen their mental load which will further facilitate smooth functioning in their households and therefore not build restrictions on the older kids.

 Support women/girls in crisis

The other common reason where girls drop out of schools that is prevalent is a family crisis. This could be lack of resources, commuting woes, domestic violence, child trafficking, child marriage, so on and so forth. Equip the schools with skilled staff that creates the much-needed awareness among them. Conduct small time programs in your community to educate and mentor the women folk on dealing with crisis. Most important, give them the emotional support that they need.

Show them you care

Like they say, charity begins at home; similarly empowering begins at home. For any message that you want to convey to the society that you live in, it is imperative that you live the message yourself. Display the sensitivity towards your staff at work, home and even those that you might and might not meet regularly. Tell them how much you appreciate their work.

It is seen in modern societies that a mix of interventions creates a foundation for a positive environment, change certain institutional norms. On this day, when we celebrate pleasures and joys of childhood, let’s pledge to be the enablers for girls’ education and empowerment.