Education, a driving force in one’s life can pave a path for one’s future as well as determine it. It determines the quality of an individual’s life by improving one’s knowledge, skills, personality and creating opportunities for oneself. It helps form character, strength, and knowledge, slowly molding children into independent and intellectual citizens.

The Indian constitution recognises the importance of education through the 86th Amendment to the constitution of India in 2002, providing the Right to Education as a fundamental right.

The Indian constitution has committed to providing free and compulsory education to all children between 6-14 years of age.

Education- a fundamental right for all, still a luxury for others

The literacy rate in India is 74%, 82.1 for males and 65.46 for females. The disparity in education between the genders is transparent. Gender inequality has been a social issue in India for centuries. Patriarchal norms have marked women as inferior to men. Women have proved to be strong leaders in different fields, from sports to running countries, revolutionising the world. But despite such progress, the girl child is discriminated against and not allowed to access a natural right she is born with. Education is interlinked with Jobs and quality of life which is what makes it such a crucial and basic right.

When the thought of female illiteracy comes up, the mind wanders to villages and underdeveloped areas where a culturally ingrained parental preference for sons exists. This is a common misconception, big cities like New Delhi face the same disparity as the rest of India. The Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) prepared by Plan India and released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development has ranked Delhi the worst megacity in terms of education for women, despite it being the highly developed National capital of India with a high urban population. The female literacy rate in New Delhi has been recorded at only 64.4.

This raises the question- education has been a right since 2002, so why can’t the girl child access education?

Girls Education in New Delhi

The demography of New Delhi:

Rural Delhi

As per details from Census 2011, of the total population of Delhi, around 2.50 percent live in villages of rural areas. The child population forms 13.5 percent of the total rural population.

Urban Delhi

Out of the total population of Delhi, 97.50% of people live in urban regions. Out of the total population in urban regions, 11.95 % were children.

These numbers indicate that a large portion of Delhiites live in urban areas rather than rural areas. Although Delhi has undergone extensive urbanisation, its urban facade masks poorly developed areas such as slums like Sanjay Colony in South Delhi.

These areas are faced with serious health and hygiene issues, places not well equipped to teach, and with a high crime rate.

Reasons why girls can’t access education

Delhi ranks first in crimes against women, so parents from slum clusters and rural areas don’t send the girl child to school. They fear for their safety. Public transportation is also conjectured as unsafe, making women feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. A survey conducted by Ola reports that a whopping 91 percent of women think public transportation systems are extremely to somewhat unsafe. The lack of trust among parents compels them to keep their daughters at home.

Families often keep their daughters away from school to engage in household work or labour, taking away their education and future.

Daughters are often seen as a burden and sons are seen as investments, favouring the sons and educating them.

Child marriage is yet another adverse issue due to which girls are forced to give up going to school at an early age. Not only are they exposed to illegalities, but also are victims of the stereotypical attitude of being a homemaker.

Another variant of depriving girls of education and the opportunity to better their lives is labour, either a choice or way to earn livelihood to support their families. Girls leave schools to work in the Homes of wealthy and middle-class families. In wealthier families, girls are often educated as merely a qualification for marriage suitors and their families.

Breaking the cycle of illiteracy

In order to make sure that girls get access to quality education, we need to tackle the gender stereotypes and educate the girl child. Girls should be given the same opportunities as boys, this will involve changing social mindsets and bending gender stereotypes, further breaking the cycle of illiteracy and gender inequality.