Education as an Ornament for Women and Children

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Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their promotion and protection is the first responsibility of the government.[footnoteRef:2] Equal rights of both men and women are explicitly mentioned in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed clearly that the human rights of women throughout the life cycle are an indivisible, integral and inalienable part of universal human rights. The International Conference on Population and Development stated strongly about women’s reproductive rights and the right to development. Both the declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantee children’s rights and upholds the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of gender. Without the human rights of women, as defined by international human rights instruments are fully recognized, effectively protected, applied, implemented and enforced in national law as well as in national practice in family, civil, labour, administrative rules and regulations, penal and commercial codes, they will exist in name only. Experience in many countries has shown that women can be empowered and motivated to assert their rights, regardless of their level and status. Men should share the responsibility of parenthood and homemaking with women and women in their turn should share the social and economic responsibilities of men.[footnoteRef:3] [2: Ashine Roy, Human Rights of Women (New Delhi: Rajat Publications, 2003) Preface V.] [3: Report of the committee on Differentiation of Curricula for boys and girls, Government of India, 1954, Chapter IV.]

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Man wasn’t created for the sake of the woman, but the woman for the sake of the man.[footnoteRef:4] The honour accorded to women in society is a good indication of its refinement and moral elevation.[footnoteRef:5] The greatness of woman lies in two facts. None can suffer so much for the children as she does and hence that is the reason for which she is treated as a goddess Shakti whom is to be honoured, respected and worshipped. Women are the only one who is responsible for the welfare and maintenance. She gives birth to a soul. There is a Sanskrit verse, wherever women are revered, there gods reside. Even the rivers are worshiped in the form of a woman and are named as Ganga, Yamuna and Godavari. The sole reason behind that is, it gives life, it maintains its flow through out, it is mysterious, life-supporting but occasionally wild, self-less compassion, nurturing and supporting other beings and finally losing its identity when merged in ocean. Even the deities presiding over learning is named as Saraswati, wealth as Lakshmi and food as Annapurna. [4: The Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:9 (CEB).] [5: C.M. Agrawal, Indian woman (Delhi: Indian Publishers Distributors, 2001) 32.]

Family is the basic unit of society. The right to reproductive self-determination has support in the right to plan one’s family, the right to freedom from interference in reproductive decision-making and the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion that affect a woman’s sexual or reproductive life.[footnoteRef:6] All the members of the family should be educated to respect the rights of adolescent girls according to the spiritual principles and positive cultural inherent within a society. The rights of adolescent girls should be seen as an integral part of human rights. Action is needed to improve the status of adolescent girls at all levels of society including governmental and non-governmental institutions, family and community. A child should be equipped with advocacy and leadership skills to prepare for active participation in all aspects of civic life. [6: The Beijing Declaration as well as the platform for Action (1995) for the empowerment of women in 21st century.]

Women and child development is a one which is directly related with national development. The development has to be considered as social and cultural change as well as economic growth. Being women, they have been working always since the beginning of human civilization and their sphere of activities are larger and wider than that of men. Childhood is entitled to special assistance and care always. The necessity of equality of women in all social, political and economic spheres can be achieved only by education. The national perspective plan on women was drawn up in 1988, which included various related issues, programmes and policies. The Indian Government plays an essential role in empowering women and children by providing education. Education kindles noble thoughts and brings in nobility.

Rural women are still crushed under the indignity.[footnoteRef:7] The index of dowry never shows a downward trend. Government has made a number of legislations and laws but they all fail to yield an expected result. Woman is not a sub-species and the society must accept the fact that she is a better-half. She is a human being with a mind to think and a heart to feel. Still there is a long way to achieve a socio-political liberty and an economic independence. The rights of children[footnoteRef:8] require a special protection and a call for continuous improvement of the situation of children all over the world for their education and development in conditions of peace and security. Precisely every human being has equal rights and dignity. “From the unreal, lead me to the real, from darkness, lead me to light, from death, lead me to immortality” – Brihad Upanishad.[footnoteRef:9] [7: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has launced various promotional programmes for empowerment of rural women.] [8: Eglantine Jebb wrote a declaration in 1923 – a set of simple statements demanding certain children’s rights.] [9: James Vadackumchery, United Nations and Indian Mysticism: Parallels on Human Rights and Police (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 2002) 9.]

Violence against adolescent girls is often hidden. Yet there is evidence to indicate that, it is widespread and some young people even assume it to be the norm. The special horrors of rape, sexual assault, dowry, son preference, domestic violence, violence against women migrant workers, sexual harassment, pornography, custodial violence, prostitution and trafficking were some violation against women and girls. The need for proper legislation, awareness raising and education on the rights of girls and women is to be sufficiently recognized. Both women and girls continue to face multiple barriers which are mainly based on gender, poverty, age, ethnicity and disability in the equal enjoyment of the right to a quality education. Those barriers includes at all levels where some are,

  • Harmful gender stereotypes and illegal gender stereotyping
  • Child marriage with early and unintended pregnancy
  • Lack of quality learning environments with unsafe education infrastructure and sanitation
  • Poverty

It was the nineteenth century social reformers who raised their voice against the inferior status of women and children in the society for the first time. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, M.G. Ranade, Jyotiba Phule, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Maharshi Karve, Dayanand Saraswati and many others worried about the subordinate position of women and children in the society. They strongly felt that some efforts must be done to raise her status as an empowered woman. They held that, the only solution for improving their status was providing an access to education.[footnoteRef:10] It was only during the Indian National Movement, particularly in the Gandhian era many women came out of the four walls and worked in various ways to free the country. No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory, mine or hazardous industry.[footnoteRef:11] By the attainment of independence, a constitution was adopted that guaranteed the equality of social, economic and political justice with the liberty of thought, belief, expression and worship for both men and women. [10: Etymologically the term education is derived from the native Latin ‘educere’ means bringing up or bringing forth .] [11: Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.]

There is only one solution to the problem. Every single girl and woman, before the responsibilities of marriage are thrust upon her, should be trained to earn her own livelihood according to her station in life, regardless of inconveniences and public opinion. They are protected from risky work.[footnoteRef:12] No woman deserves harassment of violence, no woman deserves an unwanted pregnancy, no woman deserves to be infected. All Indian women must seek their fulfillment in their own way. The movement for improving women’s status has always emphasized education as the most significant instrument for social change. The equal right to standard education to everyone was recognized by the international community for achieving gender equality in all fields which includes education as major part, through their acceptance of international human rights law. By this, states have legal obligations to remove all the discriminatory barriers whether they exist in everyday life or in any law to handle positive measures in bringing equality through education. Therefore the two most essential strategies for better improving life in many of developing countries is encouraging families to send their daughters to school and improving women’s literacy. As per the voice saying, knowledge is like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes – Education can be regarded as the transmission of values and accumulated knowledge of a society. [12: As per the second Five Year Plan (1956).]

Education is an important means of empowering adolescent girls to realize their rights. Article 26(1) states that very one has the right to education.[footnoteRef:13] The right type of education and a better economic condition will surely infuse much moral courage in young women. Only the educated women and children can advocate uprooting of the dowry and other notorious systems that is still prevailing in the country. They are the only one who no longer needs to be prepared to submit any sort of discriminatory treatment, religious dogmas, traditional nonsense, crippling social restrictions and all obscurantism in the society. Educated moms also give importance to her children’s education as well thereby more likely to save and invest for future. Apart from the acquisition of knowledge and values conducive to social progress, education encourages mental development providing such benefits as the training in logical and analytical thinking and the capacity for responsible decision-making. Education also improves organizational, administrative and management skills. It creates an enhanced self-esteem and provides an environment for improved status within the community and full respect for human rights.[footnoteRef:14] [13: Sunanda Ghosh, Education in Emerging Indian Society: The Challenges and Issues (New Delhi: PHI Learning Private Limited, 2009) 125.] [14: Ashine Roy, Human Rights of Women (New Delhi: Rajat Publications, 2003) 97.]

Research shows that, where both girls and women are educated, the birth rate falls and they have a healthier and fewer children. Education is a form of human interaction and it is regarded as the transmission of values and accumulated knowledge of a society. According to Bertrand Russell, vitality, courage, sensitiveness and intelligence are the four characteristics that form the basis of an ideal character. Education consists of a methodical Socialization of the young generation. Durkheim considers education as a social institution that functionally promotes consensus and social integration in new generation. Education is a potent agent that influences productivity and economic development. The growth of an individual poses a range of problems during one’s journey from mother’s womb to tomb. Education acts as catalytic to the minds of people.

Education can solve problems.[footnoteRef:15] To improve the status of women and children by turning the attention of the emphasis on education can be equipped for various ways: [15: Joyati Mitra, Women and Society: Equality and Empowernment (New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers, 1997) 191.]

  1. To get knowledge,
  2. To rise income earning capacity,
  3. For personal development,
  4. To get a white collar job,
  5. For self-satisfaction,
  6. For improving the standard of the family and
  7. To get a better husband.

All forms of discrimination against the girl child and violation of her rights shall be eliminated by undertaking strong measures both preventive and punitive within and outside the family. These would relate specifically to strict enforcement of laws against prenatal sex selection, practices of female foeticide, female infanticide, child marriage, child abuse, child prostitution, etc. Removal of discrimination in the treatment of girl child within the family and outside can be brought on by awareness, which can be given only when educated. Education facilitates and increases knowledge which results in getting jobs, helping to acquire the status of their own. All forms of violence against women and children, both at physical and mental levels, at domestic or societal levels, including those arising from customs, traditions or accepted practices shall be dealt effectively by education. A special emphasis is also laid on programmes and measures to deal with trafficking in women and girls.

Some focusable Indian women who followed the powerful direction of education and left footprints in the sand of time are Savitribai Phule became the first women teacher in India, Chandramukhi Basu and Kadambini Ganguly became the first female graduates in India and British Empire, Suzanne RD Tata becomes the first Indian woman to drive a car. Annie Besant became the first woman president of the Indian National Congress, Pandita Ramabai became the first Indian woman to be awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind by the British Raj, Asima Chatterjee became the first Indian woman to be conferred the Doctorate of Science by an Indian university, Sarojini Naidu became the governor of the United Provinces by this process she became India’s first woman governor, Prem Mathur of the Deccan Airways becomes the first Indian women commercial pilot, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the first woman and Indian president of the United Nations General Assembly, Anna Chandy becomes the first Indian woman judge of Kerala High Court, Sucheta Kriplani is the first woman to became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay wins Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership, Indira Gandhi becomes the first woman Prime Minister of India, Kamaljit Sandhu becomes the first Indian woman to win a gold in the Asian Games, Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest, Kalpana Chawla becomes the first India-born woman to go into space, Priya Jhingan becomes the first lady cadet to join the Indian Army and Meira Kumar becomes the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha.[footnoteRef:16] Tomorrow belongs to the one who prepare today. [16: Dr. P.S. Rama Raju, Women Empowerment Strategies and Interventions (New Delhi: Swastik publications, 2013) 35-37.]

The customs associated with widowhood are discriminatory against women. Why, when both men and women marry, only widowed women face discrimination? The only explanation is that women are economic burdens and are therefore ill-treated. The treatment of widows is merely a continuation of society’s largesse to womankind; it gave them fear, shame, constraints, loneliness, oppression, worry, sadness and tension. Such debates are a liberating experience for many women. While gender issues are given importance, other vital problems are also addressed.

Woman’s weakness is a man’s opportunity. Both women and children must lead their life from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light and from death to immortality. Only with the necessary awareness, skill and knowledge they can play their various roles properly. Hence marriage is entered into with perfect self-confidence and a determination not to submit to any sort of humiliation which our mothers had before. Education of girls was no more a taboo. Education kindles noble thoughts and brings in nobility. Education can solve problems. The underlying conviction is that education is a cure – all that can solve most of the social problems of our society and lead the way to human betterment. Thus with the education and increasing knowledge let all the women and children in the world can get the status of their own. “Motherliest of mothers, noblest of rivers, godliest of goddesses. O Sarasvati, we are as of no repute, mother, give us high renown.”[footnoteRef:17] [17: Rg Veda 2, 41, 16.]

Works cited:

C.M. Agrawal, Indian Woman. Indian Publishers Distributors, 2001.

Ghosh, Sunanda. Education in Emerging Indian Society: The Challenges and Issues. PHI Learning Private Limited, 2009.

Mitra, Jyoti. Women and Society: Equality and Empowerment. Kanishka Publishers, 1997.

Dr. Raju, P.S. Rama. Women Empowerment Strategies and Interventions. Swastik Publications, 2013.

Roy, Ashine. Human Rights of Women. Rajat Publications, 2003.

Vadackumchery, James. United Nations and Indian Mysticism: Parallels on Human Rights and Police. Concept Publishing Company, 2002.

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Education as an Ornament for Women and Children. (2020, May 13). Retrieved August 17, 2022 , from

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