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Girls Just Want to Learn

School girls in Haryana remind us that education is more than infrastructure.

It is like a contagion. What a group of gutsy schoolgirls began in the village of Gothra Tappa Dahina in Haryana’s Rewari district is now spreading to other districts in the state. On 10 May, around 80 girls at the government school in the village went on an indefinite fast. They demanded that their school be upgraded to a higher secondary school. They said they could not access the nearest such school some three kilometres away because of lack of transport and the sexual harassment they faced en route. What began as something that the state government expected would fizzle out, instead ballooned into a full-scale crisis as the girls refused to end their fast. Within 10 days, the state government conceded and the village school will now have classes 11 and 12.

The agitation of these girls was unique in many ways. They are products of a state that does not love its girls. Haryana has the lowest female to male sex ratio in the country, just 877 as compared to the national average of 940. Its 0–6 years sex ratio is even worse, 830. If girls escape being eliminated before or after birth, they barely survive in a society where deeply entrenched conservative attitudes control and constrain their lives. Despite this, some young women like Geeta Phogat and other women wrestlers have come through as strong exemplars of what women can achieve against all odds. But these women are the exception. The reality is what the girls from Rewari district face every day where they are unable to travel three kilometres to a school without being sexually harassed. Haryana’s record of crimes against women, where the incidence of rape has increased by an incredible 873% between 1971 and 2011 tells us that the girls are not exaggerating.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017


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