08 Championing the Cause of the Girl-Child - Shonel R Teke

posted Sep 6, 2018, 10:36 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 10:36 AM ]
Earlier this year, the rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa and rumours of socio-religious and political motives ignited a lengthy debate about the safety of the girl-child in India. We were horrified, distraught, wary to the point of paranoia, but a few months later, the issue died down. Would we be this calm, if it had happened to one of our own? Or would we, like the rest of society, urge the victim's family to hush because, you know, "what will people say?"

How safe then is the girl-child? Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too?

On Women's Day 2018, the United Nations urged us to push the pace of progress for women everywhere. This is particularly relevant in view of the unsettling research findings from the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report that described the huge disparity between men and women in fields of economics and finance, education and health. Human rights and gender inequality are prominent global challenges today. While we continue to fight for career opportunities, health benefits and equal wages for women, we need to identify the fundamental root of the problem.

We need to begin with the girl-child and address the discriminatory challenges faced by our daughters on a regular basis.

History has shown that empowering women has benefited the family as a unit, the community, society and the world. Starting early, educating young girls combats various social evils such as child marriage, dowry, declining health and domestic violence. Armed with a degree, our girls are breaking the glass ceiling, seeking skilled employment with competitive pay, and eventually boosting the economy.

As we celebrate Girl Child Day (Sept. 8), we should look at how we can push the pace of progress for our young ones. Where do we start? Here are some steps that can help us move away from gender-appropriate roles and gender discrimination, and move towards creating an inclusive world for our girls:

• Safety and Trust

We have to teach our young ones (girls and boys) the difference between a good touch and a bad one. Encourage them to speak up, even if it is about a close relative or trusted friend, and be open to their views. If in doubt, consult a child counsellor or a doctor, but don't keep silent.