This article was first published on Women and Africa International with edits in keeping with the word limit requirements of the blog and, French translation.
This is probably an era of crumbling institutions. From sudden, blasphemous, bombings to meticulously crafted nuclear plans, the world as we know it seems to be changing in a way that threatens a final fall of civilisation itself. With the world population waking up to bloody newspapers every single day, one tends to question the validity of seemingly small claims that local activists gibber about day and night, examples being gender equality and child rights. But, I would like to argue that it's high time the world leaders start looking at the causes rather than the effects of conflict, and dig deep towards the root of disturbances. One possible way of doing that would be to invest in a country's women. Talking specifically in the context of Indian girls and women, here is a quick and concise view on the benefits of such investment.
India is a country run by women. From being goddesses to housewives to Presidents, women do it all here. Though disheartening, it is a practical reality that Indian children are (almost exclusively) raised by their mothers, or the closest female kin while the father is assigned the role of the breadwinner who walks out of the house, and consequently, the kids' immediate emotional life. In case of male children, fathers enter their lives only at a later stage when the child is capable enough of working. It is the sad truth of many a family in the country that female kids almost never become sufficiently intimate with their fathers (though there are definitely encouraging exceptions now).
It thus makes sense for the Indian system to invest in this section of the population. For one, they are citizens of India and it is a country’s responsibility to better the lives of its citizens. Next, this is the section which is directly involved in influencing the psyche of its entire future generation (since preservation and respect of basic personal and human rights is not a very good argument for many people). Mothers have the power of directly influencing whether their child will be educated or not, become a liberal or an extremist, a destroyer or a creator. And all of this starts with the woman herself being capable enough of doing all this for herself before her children. Moreover, targeted and planned intervention to enhance the quality of women's lives has a direct impact on breaking the vicious cycle of patriarchy which most women unwittingly and unconsciously re-impose.
In this argument for women's basic education and rights, the case of adolescent girls becomes particularly important. For one, underage marriage is extremely common in India. If girls are sufficiently educated about their rights, they will reject such practices for and around them. Moreover, they will be better able to guard their own bodies and take charge of their sexual health. When these girls finally do marry and conceive by choice, they will reject inhuman practices like sex selective abortions, which again are a common problem. Some of the more obvious reasons to work on the welfare of women are that they are directly responsible for the health of their children in addition to their own. Basic education and training would ensure that they take mindful decisions related to their and the child's health and act better in emergencies. It will also help the woman to run the house independently should she need/want to do so at any point of time, reducing her dependence on other family members (and fate).
Investing in women is thus an answer to maintaining the demographic index of the country along with ensuring peaceful homes and personal happiness. Such an investment comes with micro and macro level benefits, since it focuses on the causes, the root of the problem instead of acting when it’s too late.