Rajasthan rising education conclave held for champion girls of marginalised communities

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CM Gehlot sends a written message of support Jaipur 10 March : Post a year when schools remained shut all over the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state of Rajasthan in India is showing leadership to prioritise the issue of girl education. More than 100 girls from marginalised communities came together from all over Rajasthan for a 2-day State Conclave “Rajasthan Rising”.

The conclave was held on the 10 March to commemorate the death anniversary of Smt. Savitribai Phule, also known as the mother of Indian feminism. It brought together girls from a campaign called ‘Movement for Dalit, Adivasi, Backward classes girls' education in Rajasthan’. An initiative which started with 10 girls in Rajasthan has now grown with over 1500 girls joining the movement to demand access to secondary and higher education and scholarships for all in the state.

Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shri Ashok Gehlot, via a written message, also promised to support the education of girls in the state.

“I am pleased to know that a state level conclave “Rajasthan Rising” is being organised from 9-10 March, 2021 under the aegis of dalit, tribal, backward category girl education campaign to provide educational facilities to girls whose education had suffered due to global corona pandemic,” he said in the message.

“Educational activities were severely impacted due the covid -19 induced lockdown and to make efforts towards free education of the affected adolescent girls from dalit, tribal and backward community is truly exemplary. Such programmes create a conducive environment for the education of girls in our society. I hope “Rajasthan Rising” conclave will prove to be meaningful effort in broadening the steps taken by the state government in the direction of girl education and in creating awareness about girl’s education,” he added.

The conclave was a collection of interactive sessions with leaders from different walks of life, who helped the girls to understand the underlying issues in the realm of caste and gender and their intersectionality.

The conclave was held at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it distress at the household level, loss of wages and jobs, making girls vulnerable to social evils like child marriage. The lockdown in Rajasthan resulted in the shutdown of schools having a dire impact on girls’ education and health, with girls from vulnerable groups being disproportionately impacted. There is fear that discontinued access to an education can result in the reversal of positive behaviours and attitudes towards gender unequal norms.

The state of Rajasthan lags behind when it comes to gender gap in literacy rates (28.9%). According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – 4, less than 50% of the females are literate (49.3% to be precise) as compared to males, whose literacy level is significantly higher at 86.6%. Thus the overall gender gap in literacy rate is 37.3%.

Mr Bhanwar Meghwanshi, an active Ambedkarite author and a speaker at the conclave said that this movement is a real tribute on the occasion of death anniversary of India’s first female teacher Savitri Bai Phule. “This will not only create a favourable atmosphere for education among the girls of deprived community but will also boost their self-confidence,” he added.

A survey conducted in January 2021 to understand the barriers and enablers to girls’ secondary education post Covid 19 in Rajasthan found that pre-matric scholarships could be an enabler for a girl to complete her education. Some of the clear benefits of scholarships were found to be reduction of financial burden on the household, support for vulnerable households to study for a longer duration and easy selection criteria enables large number of girls, especially from poorer households to benefit.

Beena J Pallical, General Secretary of the Economic and Educational rights wing with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and an avid advocate of the connection between education and economic benefits was also a speaker at the conclave. “Rajasthan Rising is an excellent initiative on bringing together young Dalit girls and their demands on education. Their demand for higher education of al girls should be adopted by the government.” Their aspirations, after all the socio-economic obstacles they pass through should not be crushed but encouraged to achieve their dreams, she added.

Vinita Meena, a girl leader from the Karauli district in Rajasthan, where this movement started said that the girls have three specific demands from the state government. “We want that the government should increase our scholarship amount to Rs 5000; free and compulsory senior secondary education for all girls belonging to scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and and other backward caste communities and timely disbursement of scholarship amount by the state government” she said.

The 2-day conclave ended with the girls making a commitment to ensure that all girls in Rajasthan complete education till 12 standard. They also resolved to fight gender and caste based discrimination in the state.

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