Equal opportunity in education | Equity and equality in education

Why There Should Never Be Gender Discrimination At Schools

February 8, 2023 Educate Girls
Why There Should Never Be Gender Discrimination At Schools

As per a report by the United Nations, there are close to 132 million girls who are out of school; there are several reasons for what that happens, ranging from poverty to lack of sanitation facilities. 

As per the last census conducted in India, which was in the year 2011, the female literacy rates did see an improvement – from a measly 18.33% in 1951 to a proper 74% in 2011; but there is a still a long way to go, before we can pat ourselves on our backs. 

The challenges to a girl getting an education are so much higher than that of boys; which is why it is imperative that there be literally no discrimination in education. A school should be open for all, without any bias and without any restrictions. When there is talk about equality of opportunity in education, it needs to translate into reality as well, because the facts and numbers seem to show that discrimination exists even today. 

Let’s take a look at just some of the ways in which girls are still facing discrimination even today, while trying to get an education they deserve:

  • Their gender – Perhaps the biggest discrimination that is still present against girls is their gender – because they are girls, they are often denied the opportunities that boys their age would get. Their role is considered far more important at home, which is why, rather then being sent to school, they are encouraged to stay at home and take on domestic responsibilities. 

What needs to be done: Should a girl actually make her way to school, it is crucial that she be encouraged just as much and be given the chance to prove her mettle academically. They need to be given the confidence that by getting an equal opportunity in education, they can run and support the household financially too. 

  • Poverty – Money is constantly a problem and while on paper, it should be a gender-neutral issue, it often isn’t. More often than not, a poverty stricken family will choose to utilise its finances to educate the son, as opposed to the daughter, because she will eventually be married and sent off to another family. As per the UN report, more than 1.5 million girls in the country are married off, before they turn 18 years of age, even though that is the legal age for the same. 

What needs to be done: While free education is just one step, it is also important that girls be provided with free supplies, such as books, uniform, stationary etc. too. Many a times, girls might be forced to drop out, simply because they do not have the supplies needed to complete schooling. If meals can be provided at school, along with sanitary products, the chances of girls willing to continue in school, will increase. 

  • Distance from home – This perhaps is one of the biggest problems, because most girls are forced to drop out of school, simply because the school is too far from home. How will she get to school, what if she gets late, then how does she get back home, who will take her to and from the school – all these are questions that arise in relation to girls going to school. There is the problem of having to walk long distances, not having access to any form of public transport, and of course the fear of harassment. 

What needs to be done: If true equality of educational opportunity needs to be achieved, then its not just establishing schools that is important, there has to be access to them as well. If travelling to the school on a daily basis is the problem, then there needs to be some form of public or private transport that allows the girls to travel. Alternately, there could be smaller, combined classrooms setup in villages that the girls can attend. Educate Girls is trying to do something similar – create classrooms where the girls are, allowing them the chance to get an education they deserve. 

  • Lack of toilets – Hygiene related problems are common for girls, and periods are just one time of the month. Girls do need a proper toilet to be able to relive themselves, without having to feel ashamed. In many schools, there are either no toilet at all, or the ones that are present are to be shared by both genders. Often, a sense of shame or awkwardness, pushes girls to not go to school at all, rather than face that discomfort. In addition, there are also situations where health conditions arise, due to the lack of clean sanitation facilities. 

What needs to be done: It’s a simple problem with a simple solution – by building separate toilets, this entire issue can be nipped in the bud. In the past few years, there has been a genuine effort to build more toilets and this has allowed a lot more girls return to school. The fact that many schools are also offering sanitary pads each month, is a huge assistance and has encouraged girls to come to school. These are all steps that need to be fortified in the days to come. 

It is estimated that 15 million girls, mainly those who come from financially backward families, will never get the chance to go to school. The number for boys who also come from similar backgrounds is 5 million less. This estimate comes from a report that was produced the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that shone light on the problems and obstacles girls faced in terms of equality of educational opportunities. The report suggested that every girl be made aware that education is a right and not a privilege and there was a genuine need to reject all gender stereotypes, when it came to education. It is just as important that teachers be trained to treat students as just that, as opposed to based on their gender. 

At Educate Girls, our aim is to not only bring girls back to schools, it is also to make them aware that they are capable enough of becoming contributing members of the society, armed with a proper education. If you too want to make a change in the lives of these girls, come join us

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Posted on February 8, 2023

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