It turns out that 24 January was National Girl Child Day. In a country with an alarming sex ratio and no secret that it values boys over girls, there should be more fanfare about it. The general lack of awareness of such a stipulated day is not a shining testimony to its success.
However, it is young yet and dreams of growing. Pratham Books chose to celebrate this day around the theme of dreaming, using it as a launch pad for their book Mumtaz Embroiders Her Dreams while giving girls a chance to articulate their hopes and dreams.
“No dream is too small to be talked about, no dream is too big that it can’t be fulfilled. So dream, girl, dream!” said Pratham, and invited girls to go ahead and write about their wildest fantasies. And dream they did.
This decision to have a National Girl Child Day was made by the government in 2009, a small step in creating awareness of inequality and social injustices faced by girls and women in our country that affect issues of food security, health, sanitation, education and more. This included the launch a sustained campaign to create awareness about female foeticide, domestic violence and malnutrition in women and children by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, using TV and print advertisements and school lessons on gender equality. There have been some schemes launched since, including the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls, SABLA, targeting girls aged 11 to 18, and the Dhanlakshmi scheme that consists of conditional cash awards to the family of a girl child in school up to the eighth standard.
But in the Pratham contest, one girl writes: “I want my mother to help me but my mother likes only my small brother.” Telling and poignant, and also unfortunately a reality. It needs to change, and soon.