Empowerment through education

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

It can be rightly surmised that this essay attempts to address the essence of the issues as expressed in the above quotes. The first quote shows the pleasures of learning while the latter- the transformation, a girl undergoes – with the aid of education.

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody”

― Jane Austen

Deep rooted in her religious and cultural ethos, India worships Goddess Saraswathi, Goddess Sita, praises Draupadi [Panchali], but seldom do we find any due recognition given to the daughter of sage Vachaknu , – Gargi Vachaknavi, who with her education and wisdom gave learned sage Yajnavalkya nearly a defeat during a grand debate conducted by King Janaka. The story goes that an impressed King Janaka sends his dear daughter Sita to be her student.

We need to understand that the time Gargi was said to be living was not so much conducive for the education of an ancient Indian female- yet she could create a space for herself and make decisions freely only because she was determined never to part with knowledge. If be it so, analytically seen, she deserves to be portrayed as a role model, especially for adolescent girls who find it hard to pursue their dreams. All girls like her should inculcate a spirit for questioning and attain knowledge. In every girl student there is a Gargi within, who is wants to be unleashed – to step out to embrace liberty through education.

Hence the paper is titled so, to celebrate and commemorate the wisdom of Gargi and enlighten the girl population to embrace education for their liberty as Gargi had done. The grounds were not encouraging for Gargi, but for the girl child today with the amiable attitude towards education and the innumerable government schemes, is the right time to encourage her to sow her talents and make the society accept the role she could play to reap marvels for her motherland and the humanity.

An Introduction

Education enables one to have greater control over life and choice. It promotes quality of living. One rediscovers, reasserts and realizes herself with a change in attitude of the individual concerned and vis a vis the community to which she belongs. At the individual level and at the community level; it is thus important to trigger off an attitude change which can be possible only through quality education. One should realize that self-love and self-respect are necessary evils.

A girl should realize that she is an integral part of the society. She should be made to acquaint with her self-worth and capabilities. Only education can transform her to tread in a manner as mentioned. The girl child, usually considered the most vulnerable section of the society, can evolve herself to be part of the most powerful section through education. The global society needs to redefine the role assigned to girls and women.

Having summarized the necessity of education for girls, let us ponder on how a girl child if provided with quality education can empower herself and the society. As it is rightly said, “educate one man, you educate one person, but educate a woman and you educate the whole civilization.”

The ground for education of women, a few decades before were rough and unwelcoming, – swelling the number of the girl students to be dropout from schools. The grounds now- [the society and social atmosphere] have turned promising to the idea of girl education.

The concerns and issues while educating the girl child

Let us take an example of a state in India, where one can proudly claim to be a member of a fully literate community – Kerala. The state ensures primary education as a necessity for all. Girl students are sent to schools, and their families do not hesitate to send them abroad, or to any educational hub within or outside Kerala, to pursue her higher or professional education, even if in certain cases it is economically unaffordable.

A girl child in Kerala is bound to face “two stay aways” from home – first for her higher, professionally specialized educational pursuits and careers, and secondly probably following her marriage.  In Kerala, unlike in other Indian states, the loans are sought primarily for the purpose of the education of children. The state preserves and upholds a strong educational and literacy background.

Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamikal, Ayyankali and many social reformers of Kerala gave greater importance for educating the masses. Kerala is said to have a human development index similar to that of a developed European nation like Norway, but it lacks in economic standards. The social standards have made an improvement in Kerala only due to the stress on education.

It is enthralling to note, how a group formed out of cooperation and alike activities among women, enabled their wards to venture out as far as USA for their studies. The master brain behind such an initiative called the Kudumbasree [which was first considered as a gossip community of women that later proved to one of the best Self Help Groups in the nation] Shri T K Jose, IAS, is of the opinion of how effectively and efficiently was a work given to women being done inspite of the hurdles they had to face in their lives. A girl in Kerala as mentioned before is definite of completing her high school, and Kudumbasree was made a success by such women in the poorest district of Kerala – Alappuzha. Now Alappuzha is a major tourist destination and aids the state in improving its financial sector.

This blissful picture of a girl student is not what one gets to see in all Indian states. Some states still consider education a luxury, for the girl child and not as a necessary tool to empower herself. This is where Gargi should venture out and define the role of education in every sense.

In India, the infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education, is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate.
In India, the infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education, is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate.

Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act passed in 2009, became operative in April, 2010. The Act summarises and ensures implementation of the combined efforts of central, state and local governments to improve attendance in schools.

The Government of India, with the view of rebuilding the nation is paying attention towards teacher training programmes, cleansing elementary educational sector, strengthening vocational educational sector and improving higher and professional education. The pros alone cannot be stated here, the cons also need to be regarded. The quality of education is to be viewed analytically, and the dropout rate at the elementary level is still not brought under control. Many more issues haunt the spread and implementation of RTE as corruption.

In this global scenario where the demand for skilled professional and higher education is in abundance, where knowledge is bought, the decreasing levels of primary education and elementary school attendance is alarming.

Examining it further, we find that the involvement of the girls in elementary level is not impressive and gender disparity prevails there too.

The first hindrance being poverty, second being the social and cultural patterns that were in practice, and third being the complex gender relations around them, stop and prevent girls from pursuing their dreams. Though the role played by economic and social differences cannot be considered of less relevance, the limelight for this catastrophe should fall on religious and cultural practices and beliefs. When all these factors are pondered upon the factor of highest importance which is, the effect of location on education, also needs to be given due recognition for the declining number of girl students. The urban rural disparity in education is higher when compared to gender disparity in education.

As per the 2011 census, the percentage of total literacy is close to 75 and in women it is close to 65.45 percent.  This is primarily due to the expectations attached with each gender.

Anaemia has emerged as a villain among children especially among adolescent girls, at 56 percent and adolescent boys at 30 percent, according to the study of Child Rights and You [CRY]. An uneducated and illiterate mother is unable to remain healthy and keep her offshoots too healthy. This further proves the urgency with which the issue of girl education is to be addressed.

Women are considered to play vital roles only in domestic and non-public spheres.

The discrimination a girl receives from the time she is a foetus to the time she dies, is monotonous and never ending. Her education is a luxury, and the resources spent on it is nothing less than a dead asset.

Studies show that girls often neglect their studies, either due to engagement in domestic chores and responsibilities or due to the disinterest the family shows towards it. The major concern is that these girls mostly pay no heed to their studies due to the lack of time and concentration, which is, usually devoured by the responsibilities or household chores which their parents willingly reserve exclusively for them. An environment for education is ripped off from the very beginning in such situation.

School is considered to be microscopic unit of the society. The evils of the society would be also prevalent here. The administrators and staff of educational institutions are not only bound by the constitution, but also by their moral duty and responsibility to discourage and end any kind of discrimination in schools and other educational institutions. Children should be taught to appreciate and embrace diversity. Creating a safe and non-discriminatory environment can go a long way in improving the attendance of girl students.

Government is taking measures to improve the number of girl students. Starting with Integrated Child Development Service to the recent Beti Bachao Beti Padao scheme, the various governments since independence in India have tried to achieve this goal by various measures.

The goal 5 of the 17 sustainable development goals released on 25th September, 2015, by the United Nations to complete the Millenium Development Goals within the coming 15 years, is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

IMF chief, Christine Legardoe in a recent address claimed that participation in economic activities should be encouraged, she added that empowerment of women meant the economy is on the road of empowerment itself. According to the UNICEF, the GDP of India is said to expand by 27% if the number of female workers is at par with male workers.

To achieve this fete, education is the most important tool.

The earlier National Programme for Adolescent Girls, now the Kishori Sakti Yojana promotes health, educational and social status of adolescent girls. The scheme is associated with ICDS now, and state governments are asked to take special care and attention towards implementing it.

The present government has initiated Beti Bachao Beti Padho Programe, The first phase has targeted hundred districts with low child sex ratio. The program aims to create a safe place for the foetus inside her mother’s womb and then outside, by empowering her through education.

A woman can explore and develop her capabilities and potential to the maximum only if she receives a quality education. The government should ensure adequate steps to create cybercrime awareness and set up crisis management centres which also impart life skills’ learning to young girls.

The Conclusion

Ballika Samriddhi Yojana, Kishori Shakti Yojana, Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls, Beti Bachao Beti Padao, Rajiv Gandhi Programme for Adolescent Girls, Udisha for training ICDS workers were all projects welcomed whole heartedly with a view of empowering girls students. The above mentioned programmes and schemes not only potray as incentives for educating girl child but also as weapons of social empowerment.

January 24th, 2015 [Since 2008, this date has been regarded as the ‘National Girl Child Day’] witnessed the government release focus papers on “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence” and “Innovating for girl’s education” among other strategic and action plans.

Since 2012, October 11 is viewed as International Day of the Girl Child. Coming October 11 UN has asked world governments to pledge sustainable development efforts by focusing on UNO’s guidelines as per the initiative “The Power Adolescent Girl : Vision for 2030.”

It is said that India will witness miracle in her demography by 2020. The young adults in India would outnumber those in any other nation. Hence it is very important that special care is given to all children particularly the girl child as her development has always been threatened by several dangers. One cannot overlook the relationship and co-existence of education and development.

A girl child usually considered immature, physically, mentally and socially vulnerable will remain so till her last breath, if she is not given an opportunity to evolve and tread out. Education is the most powerful weapon that she can use for attaining self reliance and financial independence. It is indeed welcoming and energising to see the government framing its policies and programmes with this end goal of its administration. Thus this is the right time that individuals and society should contribute for the success of the schemes so designated.

As it is stated in Vishnu Purana; “sA vidyA yA vimuktaye” meaning it is knowledge that liberates. Henceforth let this be the chant and mantra for the adolescent girls and let them realize only education can truly empower and liberate them. It is highly important that we liberate and empower the men to empower women. As per the study of the Human Resources Development ministry conducted in 2015, 39% of boys dropped out of school compared to 33% of girls. The boys not only compromise education but also fail to acquire social skills and the necessary attributes to live in the social order.

The Kasturbha Gandhi schools proved beneficial for the girl students. The boy students also need to be brought under such a scheme. They should also be made to realize the necessity of inculcating the ‘Gargi element’ [the questioning spirit and quest for knowledge] within them. A safe environment for the women is indeed within the reach if an educated generation is raised.

The social atmosphere now is promising, – the ground is tilled, it is better to cultivate the seeds of educational revolution now, starting with addressing the gender disparity and then moving on to the system and infrastructure. The social engineering will definitely change the stigma attached with education. The time has finally come when we should unleash Gargi, allowing her to wander through all the streets and corners. One cannot simply ignore her cry “The time to begin is Now; the ground Here – allow me to reside in the children.

  1. Sharma.Sheetal, “Girl Child: Educate to Empower”, Vol 64, Kurukshetra, January 2016. Journal Unit, Publications Division, Ministry of I&B, New Delhi.
  2. J.S, “Towards a Value Based Society, Learning to Live Together”, Yojana, Vol 60, January 2016. Journal Unit, Publications Division, Ministry of I&B, New Delhi.
  1. India 2015: A Reference Annual (53rd edition), New Delhi: Additional Director General (ADG), Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, ISBN 978-81-230-1978-9.


  1. Excellent and holistic analysis on the role of education in women empowerment.. however there needs to be more emphasis on community oriented action rather than reliance on gvt alone. As it has been rightly said.. it is the law (read schemes) that decide where the society should go but it is the culture that decides where the society actually goes.

    While some schemes such as beti bachao reek of populosm others such as the sukirti samriddhi yojana which provide monetary benefits tend to reinforce the negative attitude of the girl being. A liability requring financial aid.

    The successful communitarian model kudumbshree so aptly mentioned by the author reminds us of christina rosetti’s concept of emancipating sisterhood in the poem goblin market and should be the way forward for all such endeavours

    However today the issue of gender equality has come to be inextricably intwined with issues of labour capital divide , the north south divide , the environment and growth divide etc, thus along with education other systemic issues also need to be sorted for gargi to be unleashed fully.