India has made great strides in recent years to improve access to quality education for girls. While we should give credit where it is due, the cold truth remains that the female illiteracy rate in the country is at an alarming threshold, given that there are over 200 million illiterate women in India at present. This puts women at a huge disadvantage from a social-economic perspective, forming the agenda of today’s discussion as we cast a spotlight on how education is key to empowering women in India. Let’s dive right in.
Secondary school education helps women beat poverty
Let’s face it: poverty is chauvinistic, and not just in India alone but in many other societies around the world as well. Women continue to feel the brunt of poverty, as evidenced by an Oxfam report, which established that:
- women earn 24% less than their male counterparts
- women’s jobs are largely undervalued, and often involve unpaid care chores
- women represent the lion’s share of the planet’s poor
In fact, the situation is much worse in India with SEWA- the Self Employed Women’s Association- revealing that the average wage for men and women is Rs. 3842 and Rs. 1815 respectively. This speaks to a massive pay gap of upwards of 100%.
Education can, however, help to reverse the fortunes of women. Completing just one year of a girls higher secondary school education sets up women to earn one-fifth more than they would have otherwise, going by a Global Citizen study. It is therefore clear that the answer to empowering Indian girls and breaking this cycle of poverty and turning it into a chain of prosperity lies in good education.
Quality employment opportunities increase
Namita Datta- an accomplished Indian woman who has graced the roster at huge corporations like the World Bank and is the living embodiment of education’s role in women empowerment- put it quite rightly when she said that Indian women don’t just need more jobs, they need better ones. Without a good educational background, women will continue to settle for less with blue-collar jobs that pay measly and involve hard manual labor.
Good education at a girls school in Madurai, for example, arms women with the requisite knowledge and qualifications to get into white-collar positions, which usher in financial empowerment. Some of the benefits of women getting white-collar jobs include:
- Better pay which improves their standard of living
- Many opportunities to scale the ladder and advance into more lucrative roles
- Women get more respect and say in societal matters
With white-collar job openings rising to reach a 20-month high according to a Times of India report, women have plenty of opportunities for quality employment if they have a good educational backdrop.
Women become empowered to participate in politics
As far as global rankings for the representation of women in parliament go, the country lies 20 positions from last place. This becomes quite alarming, especially in light of the fact that the World Bank found that close to half of the total Indian population, 48.04% to be precise, is female. So why is there a huge disparity despite Indian women’s considerable strength in numbers? Of course, it also boils down to the lack of good education.
To challenge the status quo, good education at a girls higher secondary school in Madurai becomes vital. Studies continue to show that women with a solid secondary school education tend to:
- Make informed political decisions
- Have higher chances of getting to and succeeding in political offices
- Become less deferential to political authority
Education can help women become a powerful driving force in India’s political scene, rather than relegating them to the backseat as contemporary society would have it.
Educating young women sets powerful precedence
A few decades back, the mere thought of sending a girl to school in India would be mostly scorned and ridiculed. While society has become a lot more open-minded in the years since, education for girls continues to be met with sharp criticism in some circles of the country. It is this mentality that has for a long time kept women down, but education can free the mind, reframe oppressive perceptions, and set precedence for posterity.
When girls started attending girls schools in Thirunagar a while back, it wasn’t until years later that the community became more accepting of it as girls started to contribute more economically to the table. In addition to rewiring public perception, educating girls in the long run eventually empowers the women of tomorrow to do the same for their families, thus fueling a cycle of empowerment.
Good education leads to a reduction in child marriages
Any marriage involving girls under 18 years counts as child marriage. India is the leading country in the world for child marriages- despite the Indian government cracking the whip via stern legislation- realizing a whooping 1.5 million child brides every year. Most girls who get married off early have gravely reduced chances of success in life, and end up not living up to the true worth of their potential.
In the fight against child marriages, education has become the most formidable tool yet, first in terms of breaking tyrannical, age-old norms and beliefs. When girls get a good education at a reputable girls school in Madurai, they develop life skills and a better awareness of their rights at a delicate, adolescent age. Consequently, they can choose a different path for themselves and know where to turn to for help when faced with such situations.
Access to a good education is the compulsory right of every child regardless of gender, as mandated by Article 21-A of the Indian constitution. The law notwithstanding, the heavily patriarchal nature of our country continues to see girls shoved down the pecking order. Yet, a society without empowered and educated girls is at a severe disadvantage and won’t live up to its full potential. In that spirit, Sitalakshmi higher secondary school for girls offers the girl child a shot at quality education and the means by which to empower themselves.