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Patriarchy still rules — here schemes for women don’t work

The Central and state authorities have come up with several schemes for women and girls but there is a huge gap between formulation of the schemes and benefits reaching those targeted. Most importantly, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials should be distributed by local authorities to address social evils such as seclusion of women and girls during menstruation, child marriage, unfair treatment and discrimination towards girls and women, all of which affect their access to social schemes

Inquisitive and eager to know more about the ongoing schemes for women and girls and why the current schemes did not reach the women and girls in the village, Bhawana, 17, from Karmi Village in Kapkot Block in Bageshwar District in Uttarakhand, decided to ask the village pradhan (chief). The reply she received left her demotivated. “What will you do with the information? It is a man’s work to be aware and informed. We will let you know if there is any,” was the pradhan’s reply.

Bhawana is aware of many schemes run by the government for empowering adolescent girls and making them self-reliant, but she firmly believes such schemes do not mean much as there is no one who can provide them with relevant and adequate information. As a result, many adolescent girls like Bhawana in India’s rural areas are deprived of the benefits of the schemes.  

Karmi is 16 km from Kapkot and 31 km away from the district headquarters, Bageshwar. The mountainous village, nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, has an appealing landscape that one will always remember. For the locals, it is a different story. They face a large number of hurdles in their daily lives – from lack of proper roads to poor health and education systems.

Karmi, like most of the villages in India, takes an ultra-orthodox approach to functioning in society, where women and girls are often discriminated against in the name of beliefs and practices. When women try to ask questions about the existing injustice that restricts their growth, they are shunned by the ruling men. Given that women and girls have always been considered second-class citizens, difficulties caused by the lack of development in the lives of women are also overlooked, especially in such rural areas. They are left behind to deal with it themselves and make the best out of virtually nothing.

An UN report also acknowledges how rural women globally are far behind than rural men and urban women in terms of development. Development, be it infrastructure, education, skills or health, is not reaching most women and girls in the rural areas. The situation gets worse as we move further towards the interiors of any state, Karmi being one of them in Uttarakhand.

Presently, Karmi has two schools functioning at the primary and secondary levels. But it is impossible to get good education in the schools due to the absence of teachers. There are fewer teachers present in the school than the posts available, and they are responsible not only for teaching all the subjects but also for administrative work, such as daily updating the school files. A report in 2017 stated how Uttarakhand faced a shortage of 6000 teachers in government schools. The situation has not improved; it has become far worse.

How can one expect a teacher to provide quality education in such a stressful environment? The situation has a direct impact on the education of girls because the parents send their sons to nearby towns to get good education for a better future, while the daughters have no option but to study in the village schools. Although a few girls have been fortunate to receive education outside their villages, for most girls, it is an impossibility.

Even to decide on a course to pursue or a college to go to, girls must receive proper information and have knowledge of the available options. This is never the case. Geeta, another teenager from Karmi, loves to read, and is also interested in dance and weaving. But she is unable to learn these skills because of lack of awareness relating to teaching such skills. “Kahan jaye, kya karein, kuch pata nahi hota (Where to go, what should I do, I have no idea),” were her exact words when I asked her about her urge to learn skills.

On the other hand, Bhawana, who aspires to join the Indian Administrative Services, expressed that when she discussed the response by the pradhan with the villagers, no one had an answer to whether there are any government schemes related to adolescent girls and women. She stressed how the villagers are not aware of their rights due to lack of education. In such a scenario, there is a dire need for a school with teachers of all the subjects, where everyone has equal access to education. Bhawana believes it is also the duty of the local authorities to make the girls and women aware of the assistance and benefits provided by several schemes for them to grow and prosper.

The Central and state authorities have come up with several schemes for women and girls but there is a huge gap in between formulating the schemes and the benefits reaching those targeted. There is urgent need for the concerned departments to take the help of the local authorities in conducting awareness campaigns in remote villages for the schemes to be accessible and meaningful. They must provide information on how to register for the schemes and receive benefits.

Note: The writer is a student of Class 11 from Kapkot, Bageshwar.

(Courtesy: Charkha Features)

August 2022