Wings of education can make girls and women fly from their miseries
There is no doubt that education is a reliable indicator of development. Every developed nation in the world has a high, if not a perfect literacy rate. While India has been on the fast track to development, literacy in the country has not grown with the same momentum. This is particularly so in the case of women’s literacy. The fact that women’s literacy is still several paces behind men’s literacy in India is borne out by the statistics. As per 2001 Census data, male literacy rate was 75.26% whereas female literacy was an abysmal 53.67%. Ten years later as per the 2011 Census data, male literacy rate has increased to 82.14% while female literacy rate has risen more sharply to 65.46% but still there is lot more scope of improvement.
Numerous national and international studies have underscored the importance of women’s education in India. Significant among them is the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination in 1993, the UNICEF report on the Conference on Education of All Girls in 1992 and the Education for ALL initiative sponsored by UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the UNDP in 1990.
At the national level, ever since India gained Independence, every Five Year Plan has undertaken programmes and policies for education in India, particularly women’s education. The Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-97) recommended the adoption of two National Plans for Action; one for children and the other specifically for the girl child. The Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007) initiated a programme called the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” with the purpose of ensuring that all children below the age of 14 should be in school and should remain in school for 5 years, till 2007.
Reports on the results of the literacy programmes suggest that women’s education has increased enrollment of girls in schools, increasing their self-confidence and empowerment and vastly improving their status within the family. Women’s education programmes, in the long run, have seen more women in entrepreneurship, leading to increased household savings and credit reach.
Literacy programmes under the National Adult Education and the National Literacy Mission in Durg district in Madhya Pradesh known specifically as the Durg District Literacy Campaign has displayed remarkable results of functional literacy programmes in the district. At the onset of the programme in 1990, more than 50% of the female population in the district was illiterate. By the end of the 10 year programme, 81.5% of the total participants were able to complete the programme.
The impact of this education programme became visible with an exceptional development of women’s empowerment. After their participation in the adult education programs, women were seen to be more confident and more involved in the decision making process, particularly with regard to the children. The women in the district also shed the garb of home-makers to take on the roles of decision makers in the villages and towns. While in one village, a group of women took on the management of the weekly market; in another, a women’s group entered into the business of catering and renting tents for weddings.
More importantly, rather than stopping at becoming merely wage earners, women in these far flung villages started demanding their rights. In village Dev Pandu, for instance, women pressurized the administration to build a road and a school in the village. It was a result of the women’s endeavours that the administration built a 9-km long road and a school, appointing a teacher even though there were only 18 children. The newly educated women even went on to establish co-operative banks called “Didi Banks” to encourage other women entrepreneurs in the district.
There is obviously no contesting the fact that education has been the life-changing experience in Durg. It is also not the only case where far-reaching results of this kind have been witnessed. In every situation, education has had a tremendous positive impact, not only in the lives of the women, but on society as a whole.