Gender Roles on Girl’s Education in India & the COVID-19 Outbreak
In 2019, Time released an article entitled, “School Has Been a Right for Girls in India Since 2009. So Why Aren’t They Going?” A report released in 2018 by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights stated that approximately 40 percent of 15 to 18-year-old-girls were out of school and among them almost 65 percent were involved in household work. Upon seeing this, as an Indian myself, I began to think about all the cultural implications that surround education.
According to the 2019 Indian education policy, social norms and biases contribute in a serious way to discriminatory practices; for example, many communities believe that girls do not need to go through formal schooling. The historical discrimination against different groups in society has had a harmful impact on the practice of education as well, such as preferential classroom seating based on caste, or keeping girls doing domestic chores in school. This problem alone highlights the issues of deeply entrenched gender norms and how even today, it is still an issue.
While supporting all girls in school has been an ongoing dilemma, the emergence of COVID-19 brings an additional set of problems. According to UNESCO, over 150 countries have issued nationwide school closures, disrupting approximately 90% of students’ learning, and day by day these numbers soar. In the United States alone, many school districts are now closed for the remainder of the academic year.
When schools close, a number of other issues follow. The missed lessons disproportionately impact students with fewer resources who often have fewer opportunities for learning throughout throughout their lives. While closing schools at this time is absolutely necessary in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, students are now falling behind. India is currently implementing a 21-day lockdown which means that girls who are receiving valuable education no longer have access. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, some of them may never return to school again.
The questions that should be asked at this time are: how do we ensure that learning never stops for these girls? How do we keep them in school? How do we address these long-standing gender norms? There are many ways to go about this and help, including speaking out for those who do not have a voice and donating.
There are many GCE-US coalition members and partners that have done excellent work in this area both in India and other countries, and would be highly appreciative of your support. This includes Girl Up, Women One, Girl Rising, Girls Learn International, and Malala Fund. Helping local organizations in India in this area will also make a difference. We must do our part to make sure that girls and young women remain hopeful towards their education and are receiving the resources they need.
Courtesy of Jerry Cooke-Corbis, Time Magazine