International Day Of The Girl Child: Will It Make A Difference In India?

We all know that discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long-running phenomenon and that it characterises Indian society at every level.

Smita Singh
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Inclusivity In Classrooms
Each year October 11 is celebrated as International Day of the Girl Child. I believe there can’t be a more important day as this in India. Yes, our society needs reminders that it will cease to exist if future generations of women are not bought to the centre stage.

The day was adopted by United Nations and aims to raise awareness of gender inequality, child marriage, education deprivation and other sensitive issues faced by girls due to their gender. The theme chosen this year is – ‘Our time is now – our rights, our future’.

We all know that discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long-running phenomenon and that it characterises Indian society at every level.

Proving this right is the Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum. India ranks 135 among a total of 146 countries in 2022 and is the worst performer in the world, in the ‘health and survival’ sub-index, where it is ranked 146. India also ranks poorly among its neighbours and is behind Bangladesh (71), Nepal (96), Sri Lanka (110), Maldives (117) and Bhutan (126). Only Iran (143), Pakistan (145) and Afghanistan (146) perform worse than India in south Asia.

The Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks gender parity across four key dimensions or sub-indices — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. It measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale, which can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity or the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed. India ranks 146 in health and survival, 143 in economic participation and opportunity, 107 in educational attainment and 48th in political empowerment.

So what are the gender biases that Indian girls and women face?

Education and Indian women


India has Asia's lowest female literacy rate. Yes, India is putting in effort on this front, but at a slow pace since we haven't achieved what we should have thus far. The countrywide female literacy rate in India is 70.3 percent, while the male literacy rate is predicted to be 84.7 percent. According to the National Sample Survey Office, India's average literacy rate is 77.7 percent. Yet, we don’t understand that women’s education is vital to the overall growth of the country.

So, why do you think India should have literate women population? Because firstly, education is a fundamental entitlement for everyone, and when we say everyone, we must include women. Secondly, education promotes equality in society, how? For example, when a boy goes to school and his sister stays at home, he begins to believe he is entitled and that he is superior to the girl. However, if they both get the same opportunity it teaches both men and women to promote the ideas of equality and democracy. Thirdly, it empowers them, makes them independent, and helps in the development of self-confidence.

Suggested Reading: 5 Indian Women Speak About Being The Only Girl Child In The Family

Economic participation of women


The 2022 Global Gender Gap Index figures indicate that just 25 percent of women formally engage in India’s labour market, compared with 82 percent of men.  This is one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the world for women, ranking India 145th out of 153 countries. This figure is even more worrisome given the fact that the women’s labour force participation rate in India has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to 25 percent now, despite significant educational gains and robust GDP growth. India is the only major economy to witness such a negative trend in women’s participation in the workforce.

Among India’s senior officials and managers, women account for only 14 percent of leadership roles — putting India at 136th in World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index — and just 30 percent of professional and technical workers. GoI has reported that only 10 percent of startup founders are women, and women fill just 22 percent of positions in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), despite India having the second-largest AI workforce in the world. An Indian woman is making about 20 percent of what an Indian man is making.

For this to change, experts say India needs to provide consistent structural support and flexibility to female workers while changing the approach toward the women workforce.

Healthcare for girls and women

As many as 60 percent of women in the country face trouble accessing healthcare for themselves, the findings of the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) have revealed. The report which had surveyed women between the ages of 15-49 years about potential problems in obtaining medical treatment for themselves when they are sick— was released early this month.

Inadequate infrastructure and insufficient health personnel emerged as the leading problem keeping women from accessing medical care. 40.4 percent of women reported non-availability of drugs as a problem, while 39.2 percent of women reported a lack of health providers as a cause for not accessing health care. Further, 31.2 percent of women reported concerns about no female health provider available at healthcare centres.


The NFHS also found that 29.8 percent of women were covered by health insurance compared to 33.3 percent of men (between 15-49 years of age). The prevalence of anaemia among women has also increased in the last five years; the NFHS found that 57 percent of the surveyed women were anaemic compared to 53.1 percent of women in 2016.

Political empowerment

The percentage of female legislators, senior officials, and managers rose from 14.6 to 17.6 percent, and the percentage of female professionals and technicians went from 29.2 to 32.9 percent according to Global Gender Gap Index 2022.

“However, Political Empowerment records a declining score (-0.010) due to the diminishing share of years women have served as head of state for the past 50 years,” the report noted.

At the end this is the food for thought - this year, the index reveals that the gender gap has been closed at 68.1 percent globally, and if we move forward at a similar pace of progression, it would take us almost 132 years to reach complete gender equivalence all over the world.

Views expressed are the author's own.

International Day of the Girl child