Marginalized women in India face innumerable challenges when it comes to their education, with 165 million women over the age of 15 years still deprived of education and with only 1 in 100 girls reaching the final standard within their schooling. The 86th Amendment to the Constitution of India establishes free and compulsory education for children between ages 6 and 14 as a fundamental right. In spite of this, the reality is that several marginalized groups are deprived from the education they are entitled to. The literacy rate according to the 2011 Census, stood at 74.04%, with a male literacy rate of 82.14% and female literacy lagging behind at 65.46%. In India, with 70 percent of the population of India residing in rural areas, it is essential to understand the socio-economic factors as well as cultural barriers that have facilitated this disadvantage. (Girl Power, 2010)
The marginalization of women, especially those from lower strata of society, from educational institutions is rampant to this day.
SOCIAL, CULTURAL & ECONOMIC BARRIERS FACED BY MARGINALIZED WOMEN:
- Harmful/ Wrongful gender stereotyping: Sociological barriers include those rooted gender roles and stereotyping. Women are perceived in terms of domesticity and these norms delegate the roles they are socialised into. Women are seen as wives, child bearers and rearers, this makes educating them seem like a luxury, an unnecessary extravagance and a poor investment.
- Other barriers include child marriages and early pregnancies, which prevent girls and women from attending schools and accessing educational services. The lack of quality learning environments and inadequate/ unsafe/ unsanitary infrastructure can be discouraging for girls as well.
- Poverty: economically poorer sections are often not in a position to send their children to school and are more likely to invest in the male child than in the female child if they can, for the men are expected to be the sole breadwinners of each family. Schools in rural areas and low-income neighbourhoods are also often underfunded, harder to access with poor infrastructure. This also reduces the appeal of sending one’s daughters to school when they would be more comfortable and productive at home. These Socio-economic disadvantages further limit access to education, higher education and resources to facilitate learning leading to a marginalization of female labour in the workforce. (Nair 2010).
Additionally, the Global Education Monitoring Report’s 2016 Gender review found that in India, upper secondary completion rates of rich urban children averaged 70%, poor rural males had an average completion rate of 26% whereas the rate was much lower for poor rural females, suggesting that the intersection of being female, being in poverty and living in a rural area deprives them of their entitlement to education (2016, p. 19).
These marginalized women are also negatively impacted by the privatisation of the education sector, with Indian public schools being in abominable conditions. The privatization of this sector encourages divestment of funds for public schools, gradually eroding the public education and its ability to reach marginalised women.
THE NEED FOR EDUCATION OF MARGINALIZED WOMEN:
The exist a myriad of reasons why the education of marginalized women is imperative. Studies have found that Girls who receive more education are less likely to marry as children and to become pregnant and young mothers.
Ensuring a quality education for marginalised women can also translate into higher wages with a single year of secondary education translating into a 25% increase in wages later in life, according to the World Bank Group (WBG). The benefits of this are reaped by their children as women tend to reinvest 90% of their income in their families (Bourne 2014). Girls’ education is proven to not only have a significant impact on each of their families but to contribute greatly to national economic growth. According to WBG a one percentage point increase in the proportion of women with secondary education raises the average gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.3 percent. Education also opens new avenues for employment opportunities helping poverty reduction. For example, in Latin America, when women’s participation in the labour market increased 15 percent in just one decade, the rate of poverty decreased by 30 percent (WBG).
These findings call for emphasis to be placed on the provision of good quality education to marginalized girls while also taking initiative to dismantle the oppressive structures that inhibit girls’ access to education. This includes community outreach initiatives that supports, encourage and inform their parents about the benefits of their daughters’ education. Several initiatives that have been introduced to alleviate the aforementioned issue such as The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative, the most recent NEP, and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, are starting points but have minimally contributed to easing the access of marginalized women to education.
Looking at the current paradigm, it is still evident that these schemes are yet to create actual systemic change and provide quality education for an unprecedented number of marginalised women. Prime Minister Modi’s campaign, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ has been strikingly unsuccessful on the grounds of its exploitation of funds. 56% of funds were utilized for advertising while less than 25 percent of the funds were distributed to districts and states. More than Rs. 160 crores were utilized for publicity & media advocacy under the scheme in the year 2018-19. More than 75% of the total utilization in the years 2017-19 was for media advocacy purposes. In 2020-21, as of 17 September 2020, Rs. 96.7 lakh has been spent on media advocacy (Verma et al., 2020).
The campaign allocated Rs 5 lakh to each district for implementing the scheme. In Panipat, three out of the five lakh rupees were spent on the preparation of a “Theme Gate” advertising the campaign in the area (Kapur 2017).
The most recent National Education Policy (2020) is a concerning new policy that seeks to protect the interest of private stakeholders in the education sector as it hosts a provision that boosts public-private partnerships in education. Several NGO workers and education advocates have expressed their concern in terms of affordability and ease of access to education centres. The NEP is said to comprise of a Gender Inclusion Fund toward equitable education for girls as well as transgender students and a substantial increase in public investment to bring education spending to 6% of gross domestic product. The utilization of these funds in alleviating the struggles girls face when trying to receive an education is unpredictable.
Also Read: Shadow Education in Kota, India.
The success and failures of these schemes brings to light the crux of the issue which posits that the main barrier to educating women is not always monetarily efficient and within the purview of the state (Nair 2010). Some other initiatives for ensuring, encouraging, and easing access to education for marginalized women include:
- Grassroots level improvements related to mindset changes: this includes targeting parental reluctance, dismantling harmful gender stereotypes and informing parents and their children of the economic and social benefits of education.
- Strategic initiatives to incentivize education:
- Target approach to ensure ease of access in each neighbourhood.
- Scholarships and financial assistance: allocation of state and central funds to each family providing the basic needs of each student.
- Life skills, psychosocial and interpersonal and vocational training for the empowerment of girl children and their preparedness to work independently
- Allocation of funds for ensuring quality and safe infrastructure.
- Community initiatives- Volunteers and NGO’s can be encouraged to provide Community training in the importance of education and also in creating social support systems and encouragement for the families of the girl children.
- Enabling policy-level framework that deals with regulation and reservation
- Government and local action
- Sustainable tracking of funds: as mentioned above, one of the main issues plaguing access to good quality education for marginalized women is the problem of funding, which rarely ever reaches the education centers, communities and families it needs to reach. Holding authorities to account is also necessary in ensuring that funds are utilized.
Although these initiatives may get the ball rolling, there is a long way to go for the education of marginalized women in India. There need to be radical attempts like challenging the patriarchy, tracking funds and protesting for systemic change to remove the social, psychological and structural barriers that limit the participation of marginalized women in education. The prevention of gender stereotyping and segregation in education, and provision of stipends, scholarships, loans, transport facilities, guidance and counselling services to marginalized women and their families is necessary to correct the imbalances in education access (Nair 2010).
Bhatt, Neha. “Examining India’s New Education Policy through a Gender Lens.” Devex, Devex, 2 Sept. 2020, www.devex.com/news/examining-india-s-new-education-policy-through-a-gender-lens-98007.
Bourne, Jo. “Why Educating Girls Makes Economic Sense.” Global Partnership for Education, 6 Mar. 2014, www.globalpartnership.org/blog/why-educating-girls-makes-economic-sense.
Census (2011), “Literacy in India.” Registrar General of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of. India, Available at: http://www.censusindia.gov.
Girl Power. Transforming India through Educating Girls. (2010). Retrieved January 01, 2018 from http://www.educategirls.ngo/pdf/Girl%20Power,%20Dasra%20Report,%202010.pdf
Kapur, Radhika. “Indian perspective of participation of marginalized girls in education and perceptions of parents”, Research gate, March 2018, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323834118
Kapur, Wamika. “Why the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme Has Failed on Several Counts.” The Wire, 4 May 2017, thewire.in/education/beti-bachao-beti-padhao-scheme-failed.
Nair, Nisha. “Women’s Education in India: A Situational Analysis.” IMJ , vol. 1, no. 4, 2010, pp. 102–114.
Right to Education. “Women and Girls.” Right to Education Initiative, 2018, www.right-to-education.org/girlswomen.
The Wire Staff. “Govt Spent Most ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Funds on Advertisements.” The Wire, 2020, thewire.in/women/beti-bachao-beti-padhao-advertisement-money.
Verma, Aprajita, and Pavithra K M. “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao – Under Utilization of Funds & Non-Compliance of Guidelines Emerge as Key Issues.” FACTLY, 26 Oct. 2020, factly.in/beti-bachao-beti-padhao-under-utilization-of-funds-non-compliance-of-guidelines-emerge-as-key-issues/.