This year, let us raise our standards and voices the right way!
In our country, 24th January is celebrated as National Girl Child Day. On this occasion, I would like to urge every citizen of India to do the one thing that we always fail at – practicing what we preach. We launch campaigns against child marriage and female feticide, hoping to see and bring about a change. Yet, a new report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation titled 'Youth in India' says that the ratio of young women is going to drop drastically in the coming years.
India contributes 33% of the total number of child brides in the world ; nearly 103 million Indians are married before they are 18, according to the ActionAid India 2017 report, ‘Eliminating Child Marriage in India: Progress And Prospects’. It also states that “elimination of girl child marriages can help avoid 27,000 neonatal deaths, 55,000 infant deaths and 1,60,000 child deaths”. Looking at the latter numbers, just imagine how many lives can be saved and bettered just by weeding out roots of the evil practices existing in our society!
Let me share a personal story about my caretaker in Goa. My caretaker, his wife and 3 children (all girls) were living in our outhouse. His children aged 8, 6 and 2 years were being well looked after and going to a convent school. I spoke to him and explained to him that we will take care of his children. I spoke to him at length about how in today’s day and age daughters look after their parents as much as boys do and we would ensure that the girls are educated and contribute financially to wellbeing of the family. I told him real stories of men who left their parents alone financially, physically and emotionally and real stories of daughters who took care of the needs of their parents. I spoke to him of how much of a financial burden another child would place on him as the financial caregiver. Society pressure from his family and people from his village had him and his wife attempt a boy child yet again. The house was not equipped to house one more child so he had to send his wife and children to the village and the irony of it all is that the 4th child was also a girl! This is the state of the uneducated people of our country. It is education and education alone that can shift mindsets. We need to collectively work on this as a nation as if we have the majority of people with this mindset we will never be able to bring our population under control.
Collectively, we have the power to tackle these societal issues that plague our girls and our country at large. In the rural regions, condoms are provided for free (which is a brilliant step, indeed) yet there is no such procedure with respect to sanitary napkins, something that should be seen as a basic necessity. Even if we have to talk about the urban areas, female feticide is on a rise. Even though it’s illegal, one can get away by exchanging money behind the curtains.
Well, it’s high time we raise those curtains, standards AND our voices. We must, as a country, stand together against the misguided customs and incorrect systems by putting our foot down and saying, “Enough is enough!”
This year, be your own girl child’s hero. Your school, building, community or family – wherever there is any situation that requires your support and voice, stand up for it. Let us start from our own homes – our own families, with our own people.
Whenever a little girl is being pushed into child marriage, may her own parents stand up against it. When a woman is being forced to abort a female fetus, may her husband stand with her and put his foot down to crush the agenda.
Let us teach all our children to stand up for themselves, when they’re being wronged. Let us educate our future generations to help one another in the face of any wrongdoings. Let us take out time in schools to make children aware of the societal evils that exist and how this must change; how they must stand together and for each other.
As doctors, we should immediately report anyone trying to apply for sex determination. Steps must be taken to educate families about the ills of child marriage and how it impacts theirs and others’ lives as a Domino Effect, because ‘Ignorance is bliss’ can’t be applied to every aspect of life. Sanitary napkins must be provided at a minimal amount, if not free. Being an Educationist myself, I cannot stress enough on the importance of education for anyone and everyone. It arms you with the greatest intangible weapon that no one can ever take away. Every child of our country should receive education and there shouldn’t be any debate about this topic in the first place.
It’s time to raise our standards.
Standards of acceptance with the way things are going on. We can begin by ensuring that the current norms in place are being followed. The world doesn’t transform in one day but change can begin on Day 1.
That Day 1 is here. The time is now. If we don’t take any action, the future path will be a difficult one to tread on, given the drastic implications of the current issues. We must begin by creative comprehensive reports of statistics from each region of India, basis which further action can be chalked out to target their problem areas. The Government’s ‘Pulse Polio’ campaign is the perfect example to prove the fact that we truly are capable of fighting against the evils invading our society – we just have to begin in the right direction in a unified manner.
It’s time to raise our standards and voices the right way.