The women rights movement in India that gained prominence in the 1980s and 90s has often been claimed to be a success. True, India has seen some improvement in women trafficking cases and rapes,inter alia but the situation is far from perfect. For instance, sexual violence is still a huge problem with around 30% of married women facing it at least once in their lives and the figures for stalking and related incidents are equally shocking. Not only the oppressive social structure, but also the response to it has also been the culprit. Many elitist feminist movements post independence failed to question the social order which perpetrated patriarchy, instead satisfying themselves with freebies for women or some philanthropic work. However, some of the post-70s organisations realised that women rights in India can be talked about only to a certain extent without discussing the more pressing need of changing societal structures and thus have since worked for the betterment of women. The policymakers on the other hand, have been lenient in addressing root causes and are unaware of ground realities, something that this article tries to understand. It seeks to re-explore the core issues on which Indian feminism stands and what is meant by ‘social transformation’.
There are broadly two aspects in a typical Indian woman’s life that sustain the patriarchy which this article specifically deals with, first, the trade offs that they face such as that between education and children and second, the role of marriages in their lives and how it shapes their societal position.
Women, Children & Jobs
“No one wants to hire a mid-career mom”-Devyani Shahane-Carvalho,a housewife recently told a newspaper. Unfortunately, the statement also reflects the plight of many other Indian mothers. This problem manifests itself in various ways and has several dimensions.
Firstly, higher educated women choose less children. The average fertility rate of college graduates is 1.9 kids per woman,3.8 for illiterate women. This shows that education for women comes with a realisation that having children has an opportunity cost in terms of their lost careers. Education being an able means to provide the requisite understanding of how women are being deprived of decision making,this is perhaps why rural India still prefers to keep its women uneducated. This in turn, deprives them of agency and informed life choices thus maintaining the authority of men. Women resisting the system have often been seen as unhealthy by the society thus forcing them to choose children over education.
Secondly, women are considered second-class citizens and are systematically discouraged from choosing work. This has ample evidence. For instance, the women who in the 70s and 80s worked in the informal sector dropped out when the average household income rose after liberalisation. Similarly, educated women in financially sound households are disinclined to work perhaps because working women are seen as a social stigma in that they are considered to be “forced” to work thus reducing the family’s social status. Also,a Pew research claims that 84% Indians believe that men should be preferred for jobs over women in times of financial crisis.
All this in turn, cements the belief that they are only apt to work at home, something quite emphatically depicted in the recent Anubhav Sinha release,Thappad. The women,Amrita like lakhs of others becomes so attuned to her everyday routine, which largely includes ensuring that her working husband is well-fed,has adequate rest,stays fit among other things, that people around her start taking her for granted. This lack of financial independence and reliance on her family reduces her to an inferior creature who is then subjected to violence(let alone a slap). This is the plight of India’s many Amritas and shows that their social standing and familial importance gets reduced because of the roles society assigns them.
The Institution Of Marriage
Marriage as an institution and the watertight social norms that accompany are an equally organised agency of perpetuating patriarchy. It not only decides the status of women after but also before ‘the sacrosanct union of two souls’.
The problem lies in the societal attitudes towards marriage. The ordinary Indian parents for decades,preferred sons over daughters because they believed the girl to be a burden on their households who would get married into someone else’s home and not be able to support their parents in their old age. Women financially supporting or living with their parents after marriage is considered a matter of suspicion and shame.This in turn perpetuates their inferior treatment in terms of education, health and jobs, accompanied with an urge to marry them off early.
When asked in a poll about the number of boys that women in India wanted,60% preferred at least two sons and an additional third wanting at least one. This desire for boys over girls has led to 63 million women “missing” from our population. Albeit a larger number of women are getting educated,are participating in national level politics or getting better property rights but if Indian parents still have an unmistakable bias against girls then it seems that marriage has been able to resist any change in societal structures and that too,quite successfully. This is also partly due to the fact that women are effectively constrained in making choices in regards to clothing, sexual freedom and relationships.
Legislations And Alternative Solutions
Before delving deep into understanding the possible changes that can be made at the society level,let’s have a look at how the laws have also failed Indian women.
For instance, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 is one of the many laws that have proved to be quite impotent. First, one can’t impose criminal penalties on the accused unless a protection order is violated. Also, the definition of domestic violence is too broad to be made any sense of by the courts. Second, the relief in the act is to a huge extent, based on the Protection and Residence officers’ discretion leaving less for the judge to decide, jeopardizing the sensitive issue of justice to the victim.All this is not brow-raising when women constituted only 8.29% of the parliament when the law was discussed and passed in 2005. Not only that,there is a huge backlog of cases and victims are told to wait for as long as 3 months. Judicial attitude is equally to blame. For example,in 2006,SC restricted legal definition of shared household in relation to the act to that belonging to or rented by the husband to avoid “societal chaos”.
For a deeper understanding,a cursory glance at some other laws is desirable. For example, The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013 demands that firms have internal committees for sexual harassment complaints but has near to zero compliance or the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 which is rarely enforced in letter or spirit.
Howsoever,acts such as Prohibition of Sex Selection Act,1994, or Hindu Succession Amendmnet Act,2005 and many similar laws have helped but have poor enforcement,the police often siding with the accused or the case not being reported in the first instance.
Women rights organisations have suggested several other measures to rectify the solution. For example,role-reversals is a much suggested solution. The women do the job,the men the household work,giving the former greater financial independence and social acceptability over time. Even though women might take up the task of breadwinner,the society or men will not accept themselves in their new tasks,not because they are not suited to it,but because the household work has no dignity.
Nuclear families,which are considered as another possible answer, have not provided definitive help in ending patriarchy and it comes at cost of reduced social security and frequently, severance of familial ties. Also,much acclaimed self defence techniques have neither shown concrete and verifiable results nor have they changed attitudes.
The Meaning Of ‘Social Transformation’
It is not that the laws or similar abovementioned alternative solutions are completely impotent but they can’t be really effective without political and social willpower. This boils down to the societal attitudes which straitjacket women and their aspirations. Perhaps that is where social transformation comes in. It is,however,quite a broad term. It is generally what people make of it thus giving it different interpretations and it is upon the society to accept one of them. However,there is general consensus that the root problem lies in how we perceive the institution of marriage and how it affects even remotely related issues like Indian parents’ birth decisions or education given to girls,as illustrated above. Social transformation will help adress this root problem.
This can be achieved by changing the belief that the girl’s parents are not her responsibility needs to be changed. Parents need to be made to realize that their children, both men and women, have shared duty in this regard. Perhaps, effective implementation and appropriate amendments to laws such as Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,2007,which sets the legal framework in relation to the shared responsibilities of children towards parents, would help.Also, the legal process needs to be flexible and easier for victims of patriarchial violence or discrimination.
Also, the woman, along with her husband, needs to be given greater autonomy,if she wants to move into her husband’s home. She should not be forced to concede to patriarchal norms of the residing place of women after marriage.
In addition to that, patriarchal narratives need to be changed by altering how parents bring up their children(teaching boys to be strong and girls to be emotional and docile). Everything,from the toys girls play with(dolls etc.) to the movies they are ‘supposed’ to enjoy more(rom-coms,etc.), needs to be changed and both boys and girls be given the freedom to make their own choices in this respect. This could help erase the inherent gender bias against women and ensure that men don’t feel privileged over women.
Sex education plays an equally important role in that it helps break sexual stereotypes and bring to an end,biological misinformation. Boys and girls need to be taught the importance of private space of others. Children need to be made aware of regular biological processes like menstruation so that they don’t need to see them with suspicion and a sense of confusion.
Most importantly, there is a need to give up those traditional values that advocate the persistence of male-headed households and physically and socially constraining women for sake of preservation of social order,before it starts to hurt the ever changing Indian society. The society decides what is right for it and if some customs don’t fit into the present-day social structure ,they shouldn’t be carried on for their own sake. The social transformation that has since been vividly discussed, essentially refers to this societal change, notwithstanding the different interpretations that people give it.
Demand for Investigation of COVID-19 gained momentum
Human history is full of natural disasters like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Vacanos, Drought, Famine, Pandemic, etc. Some of them were really huge and have been damaged a lot. The outbreak of diseases was also very common in the past, like Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Ebola, SARS, Middle-East-Virus, etc. However, the most damaging in recent history is COVID-19.
According to Worldometer, the latest data reveal that Coronavirus Cases has reached :
193,422,021, and death toll touched: 4,151,655. However, these are the official data provided by each individual country to Worldometer. The actual data is much more, as some countries have limited resources and could not test their population on a bigger scale, whereas few countries hide the actual data to save face, like India. Prime Minister Modi has mishandled the Pandemic and politicized it. His extremist approach toward minorities and political opponents has worsened the situation. He is afraid, if the public comes to know the actual disasters, he may lose political popularity and have to leave the office. Unofficial sources on groud estimate the actual figures are almost ten times higher. He has taken strict measures to hide the actual data and control media on reporting facts.
Whatever the actual data, even the official data shows a big disaster. Almost all nations became the victim of it and suffered heavily. The loss of human lives and the economic loss have made the whole World think seriously.
It is time to investigate the origin of COVID-19. There are many theories, and some are part of the blame game and politics, without proper investigations and reliable evidence. The World is so much polarized that it is very difficult to believe any side of the views and blames. Under this scenario, it is the World Health Organization (WHO) responsibility to conduct a transparent investigation and reach the source of COVID-19. It is believed that the whole World may trust WHO.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded on Wednesday that the United States show transparency and conduct a thorough investigation into its Fort Detrick laboratory and other biological labs overseas over the origins of COVID-19 in response to appeals from people in China and around the World. By Wednesday afternoon, an open letter published on Saturday asking the World Health Organization to probe Fort Detrick had garnered nearly 5 million signatures from Chinese netizens.
“The soaring number reflects the Chinese people’s demands and anger at some people in the US who manipulate the origin-tracing issue for political reasons,” Zhao said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “cease and desist order” in July 2019 to halt research at Fort Detrick that involved dangerous organisms like the Ebola virus. The same month, a “respiratory outbreak” of unknown cause saw more than 60 residents in a Northern Virginia retirement community become ill. Later that year, Maryland, where Fort Detrick is based, witnessed a doubling of the number of residents who developed a respiratory illness related to vaping.
But the CDC never released information about the shutdown of the lab’s deadly germ research operations, citing “national security reasons”. “An investigation into Fort Detrick is long-overdue, but the US has not done it yet, so the mystery remains unsolved,” Zhao said, adding that was a question the US must answer regarding the tracing of the origins of COVID-19.
There are 630,000 of its citizens lost to the Pandemic. The US should take concrete measures to investigate the origins of the virus at home thoroughly, discover the reason for its inadequate response to the Pandemic, and punish those who should be held accountable. Especially in the initial days, the mishandling of the Pandemic by then-President Trump was a significant cause of the rapidly spreading of the virus, which must be addressed adequately. Washington remains silent whenever Fort Detrick is mentioned. It seeks to stigmatize and demonize China under the pretext of origin-tracing.
It appealed that the WHO may come forward and conduct through research and investigation in a professional, scientific, and transparent manner to satisfy the whole World.
How to eliminate Learning Poverty
Children learn more and are more likely to stay in school if they are first taught in a language that they speak and understand. Yet, an estimated 37 percent of students in low- and middle-income countries are required to learn in a different language, putting them at a significant disadvantage throughout their school life and limiting their learning potential. According to a new World Bank report Loud and Clear: Effective Language of Instruction Policies for Learning, effective language of instruction (LoI) policies are central to reducing Learning Poverty and improving other learning outcomes, equity, and inclusion.
Instruction unfolds through language – written and spoken – and children learning to read and write is foundational to learning all other academic subjects. The Loud and Clear report puts it simply: too many children are taught in a language they don’t understand, which is one of the most important reasons why many countries have very low learning levels.
Children most impacted by such policies and choices are often disadvantaged in other ways – they are in the bottom 40 percent of the socioeconomic scale and live in more remote areas. They also lack the family resources to address the effects of ineffective language policies on their learning. This contributes to higher dropout rates, repetition rates, higher Learning Poverty, and lower learning overall.
“The devastating impacts of COVID-19 on learning is placing an entire generation at risk,” says Mamta Murthi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development. “Even before the pandemic, many education systems put their students at a disadvantage by requiring children to learn in languages they do not know well – and, in far too many cases, in languages they do not know at all. Teaching children in a language they understand is essential to recover and accelerate learning, improve human capital outcomes, and build back more effective and equitable education systems.”
The new LoI report notes that when children are first taught in a language that they speak and understand, they learn more, are better placed to learn other languages, are able to learn other subjects such as math and science, are more likely to stay in school, and enjoy a school experience appropriate to their culture and local circumstances. Moreover, this lays the strongest foundation for learning in a second language later on in school. As effective LoI policies improve learning and school progression, they reduce country costs per student and, thus, enables more efficient use of public funds to enhance more access and quality of education for all children.
“The language diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of its main features – while the region has 5 official languages, there are 940 minority languages spoken in Western and Central Africa and more than 1,500 in Sub-Saharan Africa, which makes education challenges even more pronounced,” says Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Regional Vice President for Western and Central Africa. “By adopting better language-of-instruction policies, countries will enable children to have a much better start in school and get on the right path to build the human capital they need to sustain long-term productivity and growth of their economies.”
The report explains that while pre-COVID-19, the world had made tremendous progress in getting children to school, the near-universal enrollment in primary education did not lead to near-universal learning. In fact, before the outbreak of the pandemic, 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries were living in Learning Poverty, that is, were unable to read and understand an age-appropriate text by age 10. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the figure was closer to 90 percent. Today, the unprecedented twin shocks of extended school closures and deep economic recession associated with the pandemic are threatening to make the crisis even more dire, with early estimates suggesting that Learning Poverty could rise to a record 63 percent. These poor learning outcomes are, in many cases, a reflection of inadequate language of instruction policies.
“The message is loud and clear. Children learn best when taught in a language they understand, and this offers the best foundation for learning in a second language,” stressed Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education. “This deep and unjust learning crisis requires action. Investments in education systems around the world will not yield significant learning improvements if students do not understand the language in which they are taught. Substantial improvements in Learning Poverty are possible by teaching children in the language they speak at home.”
The new World Bank policy approach to language of instruction is guided by 5 principles:
1. Teach children in their first language starting with Early Childhood Education and Care services through at least the first six years of primary schooling.
2. Use a student’s first language for instruction in academic subjects beyond reading and writing.
3. If students are to learn a second language in primary school, introduce it as a foreign language with an initial focus on oral language skills.
4. Continue first language instruction even after a second language becomes the principal language of instruction.
5. Continuously plan, develop, adapt, and improve the implementation of language of instruction policies, in line with country contexts and educational goals.
Of course, these language of instruction policies need to be well integrated within a larger package of policies to ensure alignment with the political commitment and the instructional coherence of the system.
This approach will guide the World Bank’s financing and advisory support for countries to provide high-quality early childhood and basic education to all their students. The World Bank is the largest source of external financing for education in developing countries – in fiscal year 2021, it broke another record and committed $5.5 billion of IBRD and IDA resources in new operations and, in addition, committed $0.8 billion of new grants with GPE financing, across a total of 60 new education projects in 45 countries.
World leaders must fully fund education in emergencies and protracted crises
During June’s UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, leaders from across the world stood up to call for expanded support for education in emergencies to protect vulnerable children and youth enduring armed conflicts, climate change-related disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises.
In our collective race to leave no child behind and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in just nine short years, now is the time to translate these universal values and human rights into action.
The will is there. Nations across the globe, UN leaders and other key stakeholders stood up to address the horrific attacks on education happening on a daily basis and called for increased funding for organizations working to ensure crisis-affected children have access to safe, quality education.
Irish President Michael Higgins focused on education, protection and accountability in his address.
“I am sure that we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that 1 in every 3 children living in countries affected by conflict or disaster is out of school. Schools should be protected, be a safe shelter and space for learning and development,” said Higgins. “Ireland prioritizes access to education in emergencies. We have committed to spend €250 million on global education by 2024. That is why we are launching the Girls Fund to support grassroots groups led by girls, advancing gender equality in their own communities.”
Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, highlighted support from France to Education Cannot Wait, as well as the importance of protection for children caught in emergencies.
“The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and school closures put children at greater risk: inequalities are increasing in all regions of the world. Acts of domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and school dropout have increased,” said de Rivière. “School closures increase recruitment by armed groups as well as child labor. Here, as everywhere, girls also have specific vulnerabilities. I am thinking in particular of the risk of early and forced marriage. For its part, France will continue to play an active role and promote the universal endorsement of the Paris Principles and Commitments. In the field, we support projects that guarantee access to education in emergency situations, notably the Education Cannot Wait Fund.”
Children under attack
The number of grave violations against children rose to 19,000 in 2020 according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Children in Armed Conflict, released in May 2021. To put this number in context, that’s over 50 girls and boys every day that are killed or maimed, recruited and used as soldiers, abducted, sexually violated, attacked in a school or hospitals, or denied their humanitarian access to things like food and water.
The numbers are staggering. Last year, more than 8,400 children and youth were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Another 7,000 were recruited and used as fighters, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria. With COVID-19 straining budgets and humanitarian support for child protection, abductions rose by 90 per cent last year, while rape and other forms of sexual violence shot up 70 per cent.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to support the Safe Schools Declaration and the Children in Armed Conflict mandate in his address to the UN Security Council.
“We are also seeing schools and hospitals constantly attacked, looted, destroyed, or used for military purposes, with girls’ education and health facilities targeted disproportionately. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Children in Armed Conflict mandate, its continued relevance is sadly clear and it remains a proven tool for protecting the world’s children,” said Guterres.
This is a vast human tragedy playing out across the globe. And despite efforts to support the Safe Schools Declaration, to re-imagine education during the COVID-19 pandemic and to align forces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we seem to be backsliding on our commitments.
Just imagine being a mother and learning that your daughter will not be coming home from school today. That she was abducted, along with 150 other students at their school in Nigeria. Imagine seeing your son, Sabir, lose his leg after being shot by armed gunmen in South Sudan. Imagine being a Rohingya girl like Janet Ara, who hid in forests, forged rivers and is now seeking a better life and opportunity through an education in the refugee camps of Bangladesh.
Imagine the trauma and terror … now imagine the opportunity.
A wake-up call
If we can come together to give every girl and boy on the planet access to a quality education, we can build a more peaceful, secure, humane and prosperous world.
Before COVID-19 hit, we calculated that at least 75 million children and youth caught in crisis and emergencies were being denied their right to an education. But with schools closed and many children at risk of never returning to the classroom, that number has jumped to around 128 million. That’s more than the total population of the United Kingdom. That’s more than the total populations of Canada, Denmark and Norway combined.
Denying these children their right to a quality education perpetuates cycles of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos.
As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) offers a new approach to break these negative cycles for good.
This means embracing a New Way of Working that brings in actors from across all sectors – national governments, donors, development, humanitarian response and education actors, national and local civil society, the private sector and more – to break down silos and work together to deliver whole-of-child solutions for whole-of-society problems.
In doing so we are bridging the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Through ground-breaking collective action with partners across the globe, ECW has already launched multi-year resilience programmes and first emergency responses across more than 30 countries and crisis contexts and is on track to do more.
By doing so we can replace the cycle of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos with a cycle of education, empowerment, economic development, peace and new opportunities for future generations.
Delivering on our promise for universal, equitable education
The ECW model has proven to work.
In just a few short years of operation, ECW has already provided 4.6 million crisis-affected girls and boys with access to a quality education. We’ve worked with national governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs to reach 29.2 million girls and boys with our education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Bangladesh, girls like Janet Ara are returning to school, children with disabilities like Yasmina are accessing the support they need to learn, grow and thrive, and organizations like BRAC are receiving the support they need to build back better from the fires.
In Afghanistan, girls like Bibi Nahida are attending school for the first time, remote learning is helping children to continue their education during the pandemic, and female teachers are being recruited to teach biology, science and empower an entire generation of girls.
In Colombia and Ecuador, refugee children fleeing violence, hunger and poverty in Venezuela are being brought into schools, provided with laptops and cellular plans, and the psychosocial support they need to recover from the anxiety and stress of displacement.
Our call to action
An investment in education is an investment in the present and the future.
Recent analysis indicates that the likelihood of violence and conflict drops by 37% when girls and boys have equal access to education. Incomes go up by as much as 10% for each year of additional learning, while an estimated $15 to $30 trillion could be generated if every girl everywhere were able to complete 12 years of education.
We are making important headway with partners across the globe. The amount of humanitarian funding for education increased five times between 2015 and 2019 – and accounted for 5.1% of humanitarian funding in 2019.
Nevertheless, just 43.5% of humanitarian appeals for education were mobilized that same year.
That means girls like Bibi and Janet Ara may be pushed out of school, boys like Sabir might be recruited into armed groups. And children with disabilities like Yasmina will be pushed to the sidelines.
We have the will. Now it’s time to turn that will into action.
Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success
This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges...
Climate change could spark floods in world’s largest desert lake
For years it appeared as though Lake Turkana, which sits in an arid part of northern Kenya, was drying up....
Sweden: Invest in skills and the digital economy to bolster the recovery from COVID-19
Sweden’s economy is on the road to recovery from the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, yet risks remain. Moving ahead...
The New World Order: The conspiracy theory and the power of the Internet
“The Illuminati, a mysterious international organisation made up of the world’s top political and social elites, controls the workings of...
Western Indian Ocean region has declared 550,000 square kilometers as protected
The Western Indian Ocean region has declared 143* marine and coastal areas as protected – an area covering 553,163 square...
Six things you can do to bring back mangroves
Don’t be fooled by their modest appearance: mangroves are important players in some of the greatest challenges facing the world...
ADB Calls for Just, Equitable Transition Toward Net Zero in Asia and Pacific
Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa today called for countries in Asia and the Pacific to take bold action...
Intelligence2 days ago
USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware
Eastern Europe3 days ago
Latvia developed new tasks for NATO soldiers
Europe3 days ago
Belarus divorces from the Eastern Partnership: A new challenge for the EU Neighborhood Policy
Middle East2 days ago
A New Era in US-Jordan Relations
Africa Today3 days ago
Greenpeace Africa responds to the cancellation of oil blocks in Salonga National Park
Development2 days ago
10 new cities chosen for World Economic Forum circular economy initiative
South Asia3 days ago
Application of Galtung’s ABC Model on the Naxalite Insurgency of India
Europe2 days ago
NATO’s Cypriot Trick