Bridging the Gap | Sarita Danu | Kapkot, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand | Inquisitive and eager to know more about the ongoing schemes for women and girls, Bhawana, 17, a teenager from Karmi village in Kapkot block in Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand, decided to enquire from the village Pradhan. On her quest to know more about why the current schemes do not reach the women and girls in the village, she received a reply that left her demotivated. “What will you do with the information? It is a man’s work to be aware and informed. We will let you know if there is any,” said the Pradhan.
Bhawana is aware of many schemes run by the government for self-reliance and empowerment of adolescent girls, but she firmly believes such schemes do not reach them as no one provides them with relevant and adequate information. As a result, many adolescent girls like Bhawana in the rural areas are deprived of the benefits of the schemes.
Karmi is 16 km from Kapkot and 31 km away from the district headquarters, Bageshwar. This mountainous village, nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, has an appealing landscape that one will always remember. Yet the locals face a copious number of hurdles in their daily lives-from lack of proper roads to poor health and education systems.
Karmi, like most of the villages in India, also takes an ultraorthodox approach to functioning in society, where women and girls are often discriminated against in the name of beliefs and practices. When women try to ask questions about the existing injustice that restricts their growth, they are shunned away by the ruling men. Given that women and girls have always been considered second-class citizens, difficulties caused by the lack of development in the lives of women are also overlooked, especially in these rural areas. They are left behind to deal with it and make the best out of completely nothing. An UN report also acknowledges how rural women globally are far behind than rural men and urban women in terms of development.
Development, be it in any form-infrastructure, education, skills, health, among others, is not reaching most of the women and girls in the rural areas. It gets worse as we move further towards the interiors of any state, Karmi being one of them in Uttarakhand.
At present, Karmi has two schools functioning at the primary and secondary levels. But it is impossible to get a good education in these schools due to the absence of teachers. There are fewer teachers present in the school than the posts available, and they are responsible not only for teaching all the subjects but also for administrative work such as daily updating the school files. A report in 2017 also stated how Uttarakhand was going through a shortage of 6000 teachers in government schools. The situation has not improved and remains even worse. It is then redundant to expect a teacher to provide quality education in such a stressful environment. This has a direct impact on the education of girls because the parents send their sons to nearby towns to get a quality education for a better future, while the daughters have no option but to study in the village schools. Although few girls have been fortunate enough to receive education outside their villages, this is unattainable for many.
Even to decide on a course to pursue or a college to study, the girls have to receive proper information and knowledge of the available options, which hardly reaches them. Geeta, another teenager from Karmi, loves to read, and is also interested in dance and weaving. But she is unable to learn these skills due to a lack of awareness regarding the training of such skills. “Kaha jaye, kya karein, kuch pata nahi hota (Where to go, what should I do, I have no idea)” were her exact words while asking her about the urge to learn these skills.
On the other hand, Bhawana, who aspires to join the Indian Administrative Services, expressed that when she discussed the response by the Pradhan with the villagers, no one had an answer to whether there are any government schemes related to adolescent girls and women. She stressed how the villagers are not aware of their rights due to a lack of education. In such a scenario, there is a dire need for a school with teachers of all the subjects, where everyone has equal access to education. She believes it is also the duty of the local authorities to make the girls and women aware of the assistance and benefits provided by several schemes for them to grow and prosper.
Undoubtedly, the central and state authority have come up with several schemes for women and girls but there is a huge gap in between formulating the schemes and the beneficiaries actually benefiting it. The required information and knowledge faintly reach the population and thus make it inaccessible. There is a need for the concerned departments to take the help of the local authorities in conducting awareness campaigns in these remote villages for the schemes to be accessible. Further, a complete guidance from knowing about the schemes to registering and receiving the benefits should be provided by the local authorities.
Most importantly, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials should be distributed by the local authorities to at least address the social evils such as – seclusion of women and girls during menstruation, child marriage, unfair treatment and discrimination towards girls and women, which ultimately affect their access to social schemes.
The article was first published in Grassroots.
The writer is a student of class 11 from Kapkot, Bageshwar. Share your feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org