To achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 of the United Nations, which is to ‘Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls’, India will require the inclusion of ‘missing girls’, change of social-cultural behavior and political action – leadership, commitment and accountability. Plan India’s Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) 2016 findings, which will be used to track progress of SDG 5, is the latest call to action.
The key findings of the report has also identified two other pertinent issues jeopardizing the prospect of gender equality in India namely, safety and security of young girls and strong cultural compulsion and inclination towards son preference.
This BIAAG 2016 report is an initiative of baseline study of adolescent girls in the country and data has been collected from various sources such as Government agencies, International Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations working for adolescent girls rights and women empowerment. Each year, through the life span of SDG, i.e., until 2030, the report will track overall progress of adolescent girls based on the missionary goals of SDGs, especially related to reduction of poverty and hunger, assurance of good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, partnership and network for development, etc.
The findings are a part of a 3-year collaboration between the European Union (EU) and Plan India a leading child rights development organisation working for promoting gender equality and combating discrimination against girls, which began in May 2015 in selected districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. The EU currently funds 3 large initiatives on the rights of girls in India, with a specific focus on eliminating sex-selective abortions.
The Child Sex Ratio (CSR) is alarming in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand and in these states and there is significant need to address gender discrimination. Compared with the national data, birth registration percentage is at a lower side in all the above states.
As per Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India, “The aim of the study is to assess performance of India on SDGs and especially for SDGs relevant to gender discrimination. It will explore whether India has taken decisive steps to fulfil SDGs relevant to gender discrimination specifically to tackle female foeticide.”
“Governments will be in a better position to formulate policies facing millions of girls if vital data about them is made available. The forthcoming report basis this baseline study will push to the forefront the need for making girls and their realities visible. This is the very first step towards girl empowerment,” she added.
Key findings also reveal sex ratio at birth is fluctuating. Several reasons can be attributed to the phenomenon namely; neglect of girls, selective female abortion, female infanticide.
Besides highlighting the gaps, the key findings of the study highlights pathways to address the issues through innovative programmes for fulfilling rights of every girl in order to ‘make the invisible visible’. Key action points to be undertaken as per the study report include stricter implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act through well-defined planning, strategy and monitoring mechanisms at district level, greater awareness of various government schemes, laws, programmes meant for welfare of the girls, active participation of civil society organisations and academia in the policy making process of the government, effective implementation of various programmes in league with NGOs as partners in development and lastly establish joint monitoring mechanisms between government and non-government agencies at different echelon of administration.
The issue of ‘Missing girls’ has been a key concern for India along with the rest of the world. This includes the number of girls lost due to the practice of female foeticide, female infanticide as well as those who fall prey to girl trafficking. During 2001-2012, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Maharashtra together accounted for more than 70% (3.3 lakh out of 4.56 lakh) of the missing girls at birth annually in India. Even during the second half of the period (2007-2012), the share of missing girls from these four states continued to be high at nearly 85% of the all India total (2.75 lakh out of 3.29 lakh) Punjab and Haryana saw the highest proportion of female births that did not take place annually out of the total female births; acute 17% for Punjab and 13.4% for Haryana during the first half of the period. However, these two states saw an improvement in the trend during second half.
The 2001-2012 period witnessed a substantial number of girls missing at birth each year, with the figure peaking to an estimated 7 lakhs in year 2004. Estimates for the year 2012 are encouraging, lower than the average of 3.3 lakhs for 2007-12 and well below the average for entire period 2001-12 (4.56 lakhs). The unavailability of women for marriage in certain regions due to skewed sex ratio has triggered the need to get/buy women from other regions.
The BIAAG 2016 baseline report findings were presented at a national level workshop involving members from the government, academicians and NGOs. Participants included Dr. J P Kapoor, Director, Family Welfare, Government of India, Dr. Johann Hesse, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to India; Uday Warunjikar, Senior Advocate, Mumbai High Court, Dr.Vemuri Muralidhar, Retired Professor,Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, JNU, Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India and Ms. Usha Rai, Development Journalist from New Delhi.
Plan India has been implementing programme on education, early childhood care, youth employment, household economy and income generation programme that ensure girls and women are being protected within their own community and they enjoy freedom from exploitation, abuse, violence both within and outside of their home. Through continuous and constructing efforts Plan India envisions to create an environment.