Even though education is often considered to be a fundamental right, it continues to remain a privilege for a vast number of girls across the country. The harsh reality is that girls in India continue to face numerous challenges when it comes to pursuing education. While there have been significant strides in recent years, the road to gender equality in education is far from smooth owing to the multifaceted challenges that girls encounter on their educational journey in India.
One of the most significant challenges while trying to educate a girl child in India is deeply entrenched sociocultural norms and stereotypes. Traditional gender roles and biases often dictate that girls are better suited for domestic responsibilities, while boys are encouraged to pursue education. This mindset not only limits girls’ opportunities but also perpetuates a cycle of gender inequality.
In many parts of India, early marriage is still a prevalent issue. When girls are married off at a young age, their educational prospects are drastically curtailed. Moreover, early pregnancies are not uncommon, further inhibiting girls’ ability to access and complete their education. These circumstances perpetuate a cycle of poverty and early motherhood, preventing girls from realising their full potential.
Lack of sanitation facilities
Inadequate sanitation facilities in schools often pose a significant deterrent to girls attending school regularly. The absence of clean and private restroom facilities can lead to discomfort and even shame, causing girls to skip school during their menstrual cycles. This absence of basic facilities directly affects their educational continuity.
Instances of gender-based violence, both inside and outside educational institutions, act as major barriers to girls’ education. The fear of harassment or assault can make parents hesitant to send their daughters to school, and it can discourage girls from pursuing their education. This insecurity not only denies girls their right to education but also reinforces gender inequality.
Poverty and economic constraints
Poverty is a severe impediment to girls’ education in India. Families struggling to make ends meet often prioritise their sons’ education over their daughters’. Additionally, the cost of uniforms, books, and transportation to schools can be prohibitive for many families. As a result, girls are often the first to be pulled out of school when financial resources are scarce.
Distance to schools
In rural areas, where a significant portion of India’s population resides, the distance to schools can be substantial. Many girls have to travel long distances, which can be dangerous and tiring. The lack of safe and affordable transportation options can lead to absenteeism and early dropouts.
India is a linguistically diverse country with numerous regional languages and dialects. In areas where the medium of instruction is not the child’s mother tongue, language barriers can hinder their learning. Girls who do not have access to quality language support may struggle to keep up with the curriculum, leading to educational underachievement and dropout.
Age-old social norms
The pressure to conform to social norms and the influence of peer groups can discourage girls from pursuing education, especially beyond a certain age. As girls grow older, societal expectations may push them towards early marriage or employment rather than higher education.
Lack of awareness
In many rural and marginalised communities, there is a lack of awareness about the importance of education and the potential benefits it can bring to girls’ lives. Parents may not be aware of the rights and opportunities their daughters have in the realm of education, which can lead to missed chances for these girls to access quality learning.
The challenges faced by girls in accessing education in India are multifaceted and deeply rooted in sociocultural norms and economic disparities. To combat these challenges, it is crucial to foster a supportive and inclusive educational environment that addresses the needs and rights of girls. Initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality in education, providing financial assistance, building better infrastructure, and raising awareness about the importance of education for girls can help pave the way for a brighter future for girls in India. The work done by NGOs for this cause has been crucial and organiations like Save the Children India (Bal Raksha Bharat), Bhumi, etc have made a significant impact. With concerted efforts from the government, civil society, and international organisations, we can break down these barriers and create a more equitable and empowering educational landscape for all girls in India.