Suggestions for educational standards for promoting gender equity and women empowerment in public education in India
Report by Empowerment and Human Resource Development of India, an affiliate of IAW.
The National Education Policy of India released in 2019 rightly addresses some foundational issues in Indian education system regarding gender. The lessons from Indian experience can shed light in the challenges and required solutions for Educational attainment under 4th Sustainable development goal. The most important of them is Access. The report proposes various steps to increase access of women into schools. This includes creating special education zones, Gender inclusion funds, the targeted scholarships, and formula based and discretion funding of gender inclusionary projects in school levels. The report also addresses the problem of sexual harassment which women faces during the course of travel to schools and within schools. The report also suggests meals scheme in schools which will incentivize women of poor households to access schools.
HOWEVER, ONE THING IS MISSING: MOBILITY.
Trying to increase access without addressing mobility is like dancing without the help of limbs.
- Mobility: The report makes a passing mention of the cycle distribution scheme of Bihar which increased the school attendance rates among girl children. Mobility of women free from harassment and safe from other disturbances is a key in attaining the access rates of women.
- For this, public schools should have bus services which promote last mile connectivity for girl children. This will increase access on a large scale. The expenses in this regard should be seen as an investment and not as expenditure. Efficient service for last mile connectivity of women can have a drastic impact on the confidence of girls and their families towards school as safe learning spaces for girl children.
- There could be a last mile connectivity fund set up for each school with the joint allocation of Central government, state government, local governments and parent community.
- Creating women only buses in districts with high risk for girls to travel for education.
It would be ideal if the staff of the buses are also women. (Recruitment of women drivers and needed training could be taken up with the partnership of various other government departments).
DIGITAL INCLUSION AND TARGETED SERVICE DELIVERY
It is necessary to promote digital access of women to promote greater mobility of ideas among women and mobility of greater opportunities among women.
Streamlining of digital content through apps, websites, softwares etc. targeted at women can also be adopted to provide women centric services to girl children. This should include
- Free Distribution of digital gadgets and internet infrastructure meant to increase access to the below said services.
- Free academic content, access to library databases, articles, government reports, studies etc.
- Schedules of bus timings to schools( Public transport and private transport etc can be included in it)
- Information regarding government schemes targeted at girl children and steps to easy application.
- Specific segments to increase awareness of anti sexual harassment laws with toll free numbers and other services which each girl children can access.
- Information regarding Internships, opportunities for gaining professional experiences, scholarships, student exchange programs etc.
- Presence of IT centers in schools for guiding the girl children to use these gadgets including its repair, maintenance, up gradation of the services. Further, the IT cells should be tasked with the job of helping girl children achieve greater digital skills through content and process exposures. Further, IT cells should aid the girl children with applications for scholarships, other applications etc.
ACCESS TO GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL MECHANISMS AND COUNSELING:
It is no secret that girl children faces a number of problems while studying in schools. This include gender biases, discrimination, unfair treatment by parents and even teachers, maltreatment etc.
- There should be a toll free number for the child to report any complaints instantly and the same should be made available through the above mentioned digital mechanisms.
- Further, the toll free numbers should be operated by bodies which has expertise and expert professionals to guide the children through traumas and undesirable experiences.
- The professionals should be adept in laws against sexual harassments, various government policies meant to empower girls, close coordination with the regulatory bodies of the concerned State to direct immediate action towards the schools.
- The discussions between the child and the professional should be confidential
- The redressal mechanisms should be linked with the necessary Institutions under the Statutory bodies enabled with adequate legislation. For example, Juvenile Justice care and protection Act 2015.
- There should be counseling sessions regularly conducted both targeted as well as general for understanding the problems of the girl children.
- There should be storing of data gathered through the above mechanisms and the same should be utilized through the help of studies to local strategies for the schools.
- Conducting such educational research should be under the jurisdiction of a dedicated center for educational research which should be constituted and run under the concerned government bodies. Women should be adequately represented in this Centre, Adequate coordination with NGO’s working on the concerned locality, etc.
- Based on the findings, a report has to be forwarded to the concerned Department to make both general as well as specific interventions for the educational system in the concerned jurisdictions.
- Local strategies to be framed for each villages and if necessary for each schools.
- Sufficient linkages with the professionals, officials and institutions under JJ Act, POCSO, Women’s commission, Minorities Commission, ( Equivalent institutions in other countries)
GENDER EQUITY AS A MATTER OF CREATING ECONOMIC CAPACITY AND OWNERSHIP FOR GIRLS:
While the policy suggests that the books, curriculum, pedagogy and other aspects have to undergo a gender inclusive reformation, there is something which the report should equally focus on.
- Creating economic capacity and ownership for girls:
It is seen that the most effective strategy for empowering a group is to encourage ownership of that group in the social, political and economic resources. Increasing ownership is vital to give power in the hands of women and to create assertiveness among them of their rights. It is also conceivable that someone who acquires wealth ( here, we equate gender justice as a wealth in itself) will be more resilient in nourishing it and developing it.
Efforts of school system should equally be to train Girl children to create such social, political and economic wealth through their innate potential and leadership.
I propose in this paper of mine to call for creating better economic capacity and ownership among girl children by mentoring entrepreneurship.
Mentoring student level entrepreneur ship is a highly effective strategy in creating gender empowered advancements in learning spaces.
For this focus has to be on those entrepreneurships with
- Intellectual capital
- Green entrepreneurship and eco friendliness
- Process based entrepreneurship: Heritage, indigenous, Art, Science and local knowledge processes which can be turned into resilient enterprises
- Innovation based entrepreneurships:
- Collective leadership
- Cooperative profit sharing mechanisms
- This should be promoted with the help of activity and research based curriculum on entrepreneurship, District level incubation of girl children owned enterprises from each schools.
- Linking the incubation with diverse funding sources. Focus has to be given for micro credits on local levels.
- Incubation should also be promoted through toll free numbers that is to be disseminated to them through digital access gadgets
- Framing a detailed incubation guideline with the participation of Universities, Industry leaders etc.
- School infrastructure to be expanded for accommodating entrepreneurial spaces for girl children.
- General counseling in schools to be undertaken for finding young entrepreneurs.
It is my humble request that a detailed policy has to be drafted specifically for promoting school level entrepreneurships with the help of researchers, industry leaders and educationalist. A policy in this regard should also bring clarity on the implementing body and regulatory suggestions.
CREATING INVOLVEMENT IN POLICING, PUBLIC POLICY MAKING AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION:
There are very little areas of student engagement which inculcates gender equity in children in the likes of Policing, Public policy and Public administration.
The state of Kerala’s flagship program on Student police Cadets was an influential initiative in getting children involved in Police functions. By involving children in various community interaction initiatives of the police and various issues of public policy and public administration, it becomes possible for children to be involved in how policy is framed, understood and implemented from an early age. Studies have indicated a decreased level of drug abuse in the schools where SPC were functioning. Creating peer focuses support groups was successfully done through the initiative.
This has to be expanded throughout India with great focus on Girl children.
- SPG’s can be instrumental in the way girl children interact with Police systems in the country. This is pivotal in increasing the safety of women in India by promoting greater participation of girl children in Police forces in the future
- There should be a SPG wing specifically for girls and the leadership position are to be reserved for girls. However, joint initiatives involving both boys and girls can be planned for SPG initiatives.
- SPG initiatives should take up wide community engagement initiatives with focus on crime reporting, traffic rules implementation, road safety, crime prevention, bridging the gap between police and common people, anti-drug abuse, counseling, anti- sexual harassment initiatives, etc
- The initiatives of SPG in Kerala can be taken up for studies.
- Center for educational research should also take up adequate research programs and suggest more equitable ways of student engagement in Police.
Public policy and Public Administration:
Similar to Student Police Cadets and the National service Scheme, There should be expansion of policy research and public administration to involve student involvement ( girl children). Just like SPG, a national body in this regard can be constituted to take up initiatives for child involvement in policy research and public administration.
A detailed policy in this regard has to be created with the help of educationists, Public administration officials and Academicians in the areas of Public policy and Public administration.
Various areas of Public policy and public administration (Information dissemination, policy appraisals, grassroot research, legal analyses, surveys and polls, extraction of actionable leads etc) has to be approached diligently and a detailed roadmap need to be made to see how children can be part of the process.
Further, each student ( girl children) needs to be mentored to develop their knowledge, insights and expertise in public policy and public administration to bring about greater awareness in children and empowerment.
It is only when we address the modern day challenges through a participative and value addition model of Education invested in creating meaningful social infrastructure for women can empowerment evolve from foundational sources.