Not A Burden

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Mar 2018 09:53:51


When people come to realise that their daughters are safe in society and have greater opportunities to grow, they would not feel worried at the birth of a girl child and female foeticide will decline. A large number of people abhor the girl child just cause they fear for their safety.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that female foeticide is a matter of ‘deep shame’ and mothers-in-law should take the lead to protect the girl child. The Prime Minister was in Rajasthan to launch the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) and announce the expansion of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme. “Everyone is equal. It is important that girls get access to quality education, just like boys.A daughter is not a burden. Look around us, see how girls are bringing pride and glory to our nation,” Modi said on International Women’s Day.

The Prime Minister also pitched for treating daughters and sons equally. He highlighted the vitality of proper nutrition among children and also spoke on how Mission Indradhanush, a national immunisation programme, had brought about a positive change in the lives of children and women. Modi said that there was a need to transform the lives of women and harness ‘Nari Shakti (women power)’ to create a New India. “We have no right to call ourselves 21st-century citizens as long as we have an 18th-century mindset,” he said. Modi said that mere Government budget was insufficient to address the problems such as foeticide and nutrition. Proper education and mass movement were required to bring about a change.

The Centre, in December last year, had approved the NNM to tackle malnutrition, low birth weight and stunting, with a budget of Rs 9,046 crore for three years. The mission has a target to reduce malnutrition and low birth weight by 2 percent each year. But as the Prime Minister said, a mere budgetary allocation is not sufficient to eradicate a culture and system prevalent for decades. It will need generations of concerted effort to bring about a change in the mindset. Things are certainly looking up, with heightened awareness and propagation measures, but we are still far from reaching a respectable position in sex ratio and even if female foeticide is decreasing, the regressive and suppressive mindset of the people with regards to women and girl child is still ingrained widely.

This is one thing the Government cannot eliminate. It has to come from education, sensibility, and better opportunities for women as well their safety in society. Yes, the social coordinates can be improved in which the Government has a role to play. It can certainly formulate schemes, bring laws and launch programmes that give women more space and more say in different decision-making platforms of society. Women add balance and a different perspective to policy making and their involvement and productive inputs are essential for a more holistic society. Once women are more visible and more a part of the social discourse, the mindset towards the girl child is also bound to change.

When people come to realise that their daughters are safe in society and have greater opportunities to grow, they would not feel worried at the birth of a girl child and female foeticide will decline. There are a large number of people who abhor the girl child just because they fear for their safety. Our policing and legal systems also need to improve so that women and girls are safe on the street. Sexual harassment is a well-pronounced reality even in workplaces and the sexist image of women still rule the male mind. These are some deep-seated mental conditions which are hard to change. But again, there is some reason to cheer that things are by and by looking up. Women are more vocal today and are coming up for their rights. They are fighting their way up and making a mark in society. Several CEOs, pilots, army personnel, bankers, business tycoons and scientists are today women.

Women are breaking barriers and taking to unconventional professions like the locomotive or taxi driving, which have traditionally been male bastions. This certainly is a sign of evolution, of both women and society and portends an encouraging future for the country. The importance and contribution of women cannot and should not be underestimated. This is our folly that we consider them inferior, or less competent than men folk and our attitude towards them is shaped thus wise.

We forget that these women are the mothers who are the progenitors of humanity and without them and their rightful place in society, we just cannot be. Human life will perish. What can be a more vital role than motherhood? Aren’t we supposed to protect that? If women are raped, humiliated, battered, thrashed, discriminated against, suppressed, subjugated, abused and exploited in society, where are we heading to? The Government’s concern is oriented in the right direction but it needs to be seen if the schemes and programmes for women are properly implemented and if they are really helping in the upliftment of women.

Many of the Government schemes, we have seen, are misdirected and disconnected with the ground realities, which end up only in a waste of precious Government resources without really doing much for those targeted. This stance and approach has to change. The Government has to concertedly pursue and see through anything it starts and keep account of how far they are really proving beneficial, and that too in a time-bound manner. Expediting processes is important in India and accountability must be fixed. If we want to see a new India, there should be a new energy and effort in our missions. We need a new work culture and new urgency if we are to reach anywhere. If the Government system is geared towards promoting women and encouraging and rewarding their efforts, a strong positive message percolates down to the last man and societal thinking changes.

If the leaders show the right direction in their personal conduct and professional capacities, the public will imbibe much of that. Improvement of the condition of women in the country needs an all-around approach wherein various coordinates work in tandem towards a common goal of women’s emancipation. By the way, there are aspects and areas where we typically lag which pull down our capacity and possibilities. Those odd ends have to be tied up through legal, political and intellectual support for a better India. Development is incomplete if our women and girls don’t have an equal share in the growth story.