Why Girls? The Problems Facing Rural Females.
Between 1951 and 1981—that is, post-independence—the number of illiterate women increased from 158.7 million to 241.7 million. As of 2011, 34.5% of all Indian women were illiterate (as compared to “only” 17.8% of Indian men) and of all the children not enrolled in school, 70% were girls. These statistics are even more staggering in Anupshahar; 85% of girls do not have access to even a primary education.
Additionally, abuse against rural females is rampant. The majority of girls are married under the age of 18, and the practice of female infanticide is still widely practiced. The females who do reach adolescence are routinely denied access to food, education, and medical care. This blatant discrimination against women affects many facets of their lives:
- Lack of understanding about the value of educating girls facilitates resistance in sending the girls to school.
- Financial dependence leaves the women with no opportunity to escape the prevalent violence inside the home.
- Limited self-income and no control of the family income restrict access to food, which, one again, results to nutritional problems.
- The belief that girls are nothing but a financial burden leads to early marriage; many girls in Anupshahar enter into arranged marriages between the ages of 13 and 14.
- No access to education is responsible for a lack of knowledge about family planning; the average family has five children, but it is not uncommon for families to have up to nine children.
PPES believes that education will break this cycle of violence and poverty. Girls graduate from the school at an age far more appropriate for marriage. Additionally, as a result of the daily stipend program, they have a greater degree of social and financial independence. As such, these girls are able to control their lives to a much greater degree and are not reliant upon a husband for their self-worth. Furthermore, the school teaches the girls about family planning, thereby encouraging the girls to have fewer children at a later age. All of these factors will hopefully contribute to the development of a society in which women are not only tolerated but valued.