The sight of a young girl on the street, impoverished by Fate but with a sparkle in her eye, never fails to move an empathetic onlooker. It is no fault of hers that she is compelled to beg and borrow her way through the initial years of life. Seldom has she entered the vaunted portals of an educational institution. Yet, with the internet-enabled flattening of the social curve, she dreams of the day when the world, or at least her township, will be at her feet.
Many a disadvantaged girl aspires to be a fighter pilot, a police officer, a doctor or a badminton champion, but society and its ever-warped inequalities seldom allow her to give wings to her dreams. There are several insurmountable imponderables that she has to combat, scale and conquer before she can even come close to attaining her goals.
The pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. Girl students across the world have been withdrawn from schools by parents from disadvantaged sections of society. The pandemic-induced feeling of despair has put paid to the ambitions of millions of youngsters and forced them to settle for lesser rungs on the ladder of success. Furthermore, even today, a very common practice across India is to get teenaged girls”married off” at the soonest possible. They then have to settle for pots and pans instead of pens and keyboards, as their lives roll on. Many other age-old customs still prevail as well, to the detriment of the levels at which women should be able to lead their lives.
However, the Nehas, Bindiyas, Manpreets and Shalinis of India have the talent, determination and resolve within to bounce back and surge ahead in their careers. What they need is an eco-system which allows them to compete on merit and which does not stifle their aspirations in their nascent years.
There are quite a few steps which need to be taken by our nation in order to facilitate their flight into the high skies. Am listing out some of them here. Am sure there are many more which thought-leaders can come up with. The key is to make them actually happen and to not allow them to remain topics of discussion alone.
1.Educational upgrades: In order for girls (as well as boys) to truly learn what they need to in our schools and colleges, the levels of training of educators and basic infrastructure facilities, even washrooms, need a major upgrade. Easier said than done, but major prioritisation of budgets will ensure some headway at least.
2.Entrepreneurial incentives: Women-led start-ups need a major boost since they find themselves clueless and penniless whenever they seek to commence operations. Mentorship workshops and subsidies will do the trick to some extent, provided they are meticulously monitored.
3.Cottage Industries: Rural women folk are extremely adept at producing quality ethnic wear and food items which can be marketed across the land; if only concerned government agencies would diligently advise and assist them.
4.Sports accelerators: Women sportspersons have displayed their prowess at international and even Olympic platforms in recent years. If the number of women sportspersons participating in competitions across formats, in all sports, were to be doubled or tripled, the ‘catchment’ of talented sportswomen would ensure that many more champions are produced.
5.Societal fine tuning: Our top celebrities need to spend some more time and effort in promoting national causes like women empowerment instead of modelling for gizmos! A sustained awareness campaign through electronic and social media will enable true changes in mindsets that currently prevent girls from being educated to higher levels.
Thousands of young Indian women have made a mark in the fields of defence, civil services, aviation, corporate careers, academics and sports over the past few decades. But to enable them to live fearlessly in order to pursue their passions freely, significantly more needs to be done.
Why should a young girl have to hesitate while leaving her home for study or work because prying eyes won’t let her be herself? Once we allow our young women to simply be themselves and express themselves in every field of endeavour, even the sky will not be the limit for them!