On October 11, International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated annually to empower girls and amplify their voices. It acknowledges the importance, power and potential of adolescent girls by encouraging the opening up of more opportunities for them. That a specific day is earmarked for the girl child is proof that a girl child still has to run the gauntlet of skewed, if not outright hostile, circumstances all through her life.
Her ordeal becomes all the more obvious and quintessential in these 'modern' times when she's denied even the basic rights of an individual in a patriarchal setup in countries like Afghanistan and others. The highly condescending terms like the weaker sex and the fair sex have pigeonholed girls and eventually women collectively. Their marginalised role and representation in all spheres of human civilisation created a lopsided scenario. Adolf Hitler's proclamation of pushing them back to the kitchen more or less reflects male-dominated society's pontificating attitude towards women.
Nobel laureate for Peace, Malala Yusufzai wrote in her autobiography, I Am Malala, that familial, as well as societal discrimination, start the moment a girl child is born. This discrimination is all the more in third-world countries. Malala was lucky to have had modern parents, especially a very encouraging father, who didn't let the discrimination impact her life. But all are not as lucky as her. British feminist Germaine Greer believes that a girl child's inalienable right to blossom into a free, fearless and feisty individual should be mankind's collective and cumulative objective and a universal responsibility.
Young girls and women like Malala, Greta Thunberg, Beatrice Fihn (Nobel Peace Prize Awardee, 2017), Gwendolyn Myers (Peace advocate from Liberia), Samaira Mehta (Coder and entrepreneur, US), Basima Abdulrahman (Sustainable Architect, Iraq), among others are determined to detonate the age-old myths and stereotypes that have become veritable dead albatross for girls worldwide.
The famous Sanskrit quote, Yatra naaryastu poojyante, ramante tatra devta (Gods reside where a woman is worshipped), seems to be still elusive in our part of the world where female foeticide still goes on. Society and male corporate head-honchos decide how a woman should dress up. This is absolutely unfair and reeks of male chauvinism. We conveniently forget that our ancient India produced female philosophers like Gargi, Lopamudra, and Maitraiyee.
Adi Shankara's erudite coeval Mandan Mishra's wife was a far greater scholar than her learned husband. It's, therefore, time to get girls the rightful place they deserve. Nurture a girl child so that her existence blooms into a holistic persona. Educate her because when you educate her, you educate an entire family and a society in general.
Let a girl flow like an uninterrupted river. Don't thwart her flow and progress. We must treat girls as human beings because man is defined as a human being and woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being, she is said to imitate the male. We need to change this gender-specific attitude.
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