On National Girl Child Day, celebrating those who are empowering girls for a brighter tomorrow

AS girls continue to play second fiddle in India, in 2008 the government earmarked today, January 24, as National Girl Child Day to create awareness about the inequalities and gender discrimination faced by female children in India. It also aims to highlight the importance of their education, health, and nutrition as well as creating a safe and healthy environment for the girl child. 

A girl’s struggle begins even before she is born. The appalling practice of female foeticide is still a prevalent practice in our country, as a number of families prefer sons over daughters. According to the Population Research Institute (PRI), around 15.8 million girls went missing in India due to prenatal sex selection between 1990 and 2018 – 550,000 in 2018 alone. And, if  a girl is lucky enough to be born, the discrimination and oppression start soon after. In impoverished families, especially in rural India, female children do not receive proper nutrition or education like their male siblings. 

As per the 2011 census, only 65.46% of the females were literate as against 82.14% of males. The survey also revealed that gender discrimination was still prevalent in society. Education for daughters is not considered important and they are forced to stay at home and take care of the household chores. Some of them are married off much before they reach the legal marriageable age of 18 years. Many a time the discrimination and oppression increases after marriage and violence against women is not uncommon in their marital homes.

Given the scenario, there is an urgent need to recognize the importance of all the issues faced by the girl child and women in India and celebrate their place in society. On this day, numerous events are organised all over the country to celebrate the girl child. The  Government of India organises campaigns such as ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ to increase the consciousness among the people regarding girl children in India. 

We must protect the girl child and ensure that she receives the love, care and support to grow up to be a strong individual who has equal opportunities in life. By empowering our daughters we empower the society and in turn the nation.

Here’s a look at the top 5 NGOs in India that work to empower them:

1. Ishita Sharma Foundation (MukkaMaar)

Established in June 2018 with a vision to ensure safety for every girl, MukkaMaar trains young girls from less-privileged backgrounds in self-defence. Through a 3-year programme, girls in government schools are empowered  with the skills to defend themselves physically and develop self worth – the mindset that they are worth defending. The Foundation currently delivers the programme to 2,500 girls across 45 Mumbai schools and aims to expand to other states.

2. K.C. Mahindra Education Trust (Nanhi Kali)

Since 1953 when the trust was founded to promote literacy and higher learning in the country,  it has undertaken several initiatives to improve the lives of deserving students through education. It has provided more than ₹440.34 million worth of grants, scholarships and loans. Project Nanhi Kali, the flagship programme of K.C. Mahindra Education Trust supports the education of underprivileged girls.

3. Milaan Foundation

An organization working for an inclusive and equal world for girls, Milaan Foundation’s efforts are empowering young girls from marginalised communities with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue their dreams and realise their potential. These girls, in turn, become influencers within their communities and enable more girls to break free from illiteracy and poverty. So far, 40,000 children and their communities have benefited through the Foundation.

4. Vishvodayaa Trust

The trust has been promoting education for the girl child, women empowerment, environment and holistic health care since its inception in 2001. Based in Chennai, the Trust’s Girl Education for Empowerment Project focuses on improving the conditions by which girls, especially those in the marginalized communities, can access quality education.

5. Ibtada

Ibtada works for the empowerment of women and girl children in Alwar district of Rajasthan. It promotes women’s institutions around self-help groups, clusters, federations and production companies, to help strengthen their livelihoods and facilitates their access to rights and entitlements. For girls, Ibtada intervenes for education, life skills development, computer literacy, vocational training, transport facility to school and college and support for college fees. 

Two days before Republic Day, it is timely to remember what the founder father of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, said: “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress women have made.”  With this as the goal, we need to celebrate the girl child today and every day so we are on track to achieve it.

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