“Tomorrow I’ll be an educated woman.” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova had opened a press conference in Paris almost at the same time last year. These words… alas… remained strong just on paper.
Today, India ranks at 141 among 165 countries analysed by Newsweek magazine in the treatment of women. Even Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and China, besides many other countries, ranked higher than India.
I am not surprised though. World over … the governments, agencies, NGOs are eating funds in the name of female education in particular. It will not be an exaggeration to say that girls’ education fund-raising is a false campaign.
Though the subject remains one of the most urgent needs of our global society, the treatment is so cruel that I wonder if we could ever place women at an equal level with men.
When I meet ministers or officials of the related departments I do ask if they personally give absolute priority to this goal of education, and education of girls in particular. Most of the time, I find difference in the language their mouth and body speak.
Just recently, I found US President Barack Obama explaining how he wants his states to have greater flexibility to find innovative ways of improving the education system. At the fag end of a term, can he really raise standards of the classrooms there and prepare the next generation to succeed in the global economy?
But it was good to see Obama speaking at the UN General Assembly where he highlighted the absolute need to help foster the economic and political participation of women and girls in all countries around the world. “Next year,” Obama said, “we [world leaders] should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stop women and girls from reaching their full potential.”
Well, then I expect strong steps being taken in my country India as well and why should not we expect our government to put together a fact-sheet that details the Indian Government’s commitment to our country’s women and girls!
Can’t we ensure our women equal pay? Why can’t we prevent domestic violence? What is the hurdle in creating new economic opportunities for the women? Don’t we also have a woman as our Head of State — Pratibha Devisingh Patil as our President?
We also have Sonia Gandhi, the President of the ruling Congress Party. And even the Speaker of Parliament’s Lower House is a woman. Needless to add that even the Leader of Opposition in that House is a woman. And I don’t want to add that we also have some powerful women as chief ministers of different states.
What is the hurdle then? Why don’t you empower women and girls and make them one of the central pillars of our administration? Can we really afford to do without the full contributions of half of our population that consists of women and girls?
Listen, if we really want faster economic growth we have to tackle this issue with the seriousness it deserves. This is even echoed by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
I found Melinda equally concerned at an international seminar the other day, where she rightly said that women don’t even always have the negotiating power within their households. It is therefore time women be ‘made’ independent; they should feel independent. They still rise before their men, and eat & sleep after them. And this has to be stopped if we are to make a beginning.