Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Dushera and International Day of the Girl Child

October 11, 2016 Vijaya Dasami or Dushera marks the end of ten days and nine nights of festivities across regions where ever Hindus dwell. The period of Navratri (9 nights) and Dushera (Dasha Hara: Sanskrit for removal of ten bad qualities within you - Anger, Attachment, Cruelty, Ego, Greed, Injustice, Jealousy, Lust, Pridefulness, Selfishness) celebrates the victory of good over evil and the Goddess Durga. It also celebrates the victory of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravan who abducted his wife.

Internationally this date is celebrated as the International Day of the Girl Child.

                                             The Turtle Dove, Painting by Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823–1903)

In a patriarchal nation such as India the girl child is still believed to be a burden. The goddess/whore dichotomy pervades into all aspects of life in addition to the dowry system which adds a tangible pricetag to having a girl in the family.The priority in many cases is to save for the girl child's wedding rather than saving for her higher education.

Government programs such as "Beti Bachao, Beti Padoa" [Save Daughters, Educate Daughters] target the gender gap in the sex ratio, nutrition, survival of infant-hood and education. With the wonderful medal winning performance by women athletes at the Olympics they have added a "Beti Khilao" [Let the Girl Child Play Sports] with some wonderful sportswomen as ambassadors.

Yet female infanticide, feticide and sex selection is common. Even with programs like the Cradle Baby scheme [where children can be left behind in care instead of killed] and others that pay pregnant women to have children in hospitals and immunize the child [Ministry of Women and Child Development and some state government programs offer upto INR 15,000/- in areas with poor sex ratios] the preference for boys persists. In disasters (natural calamities or conflicts) women, girls and children remain most vulnerable. Despite priority given to ensure the safety of women, children and the old in such situation they remain most at-risk. The recent floods in Assam during the south-west monsoons this year was witness to instances of pregnant women giving birth on boats and during rescue operations if they were lucky or even where they were trapped by the flood waters.

                                               Painting by John Everett Millais (1829 -1896)
Perhaps as long as the #WageGap, dominant patriarchy, rampant violence against women (#VAW), and #Dowry prevails the perception that the girl child is a burden will persist. This is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself and grows into a complicated Gordian knot.

As we celebrate the Female Goddess, the manifestation of the power of all the Gods, who succeeded in vanquishing a demon who dismissed the female sex as a credible opponent let us take the time to foster the girl children in our lives. Empower them to shatter glass ceilings and take back public spaces and stand up for their rights, consent, and safety.

A blight and blot that destroys social fabric is the treatment of the female sex as second class. Many social ills that plague our nation and others will be neutralized by investing in the girl child and nurturing her to change the world one girl at a time. Society must be educated and reconditioned to make equality the norm. This will be to the benefit of all. We need to celebrate the Sheroes - powerful female trailblazers and make HerStory the history.

No comments:

Post a Comment