In the Economic Survey 2017-18, under chapter 7, Gender and Son Meta – Preference: Is Development itself an Antidote, highlights the first ever estimate of the number of ‘unwanted’ girls in India (girls whose parents wanted a boy but had a girl instead) – at 21 million. The number has been arrived at by looking at the sex ratio of the last child which is heavily male-skewed. The Survey points out that the huge number of ‘unwanted girls’ (in the 0-25 age group) is a direct outcome of the ‘son meta preference’ where parents do not stop having children until they have a son.
In some sense, once born, the lives of women are improving but society still appears to want fewer of them to be born. Though this meta-preference of son adds to the number of girls, but it is to be duly noted that these girls and women are often neglected, less resourced and less skilled, adding to the spectrum of vulnerabilities that girls face. It also leads to uneven demographic distribution in sex ratio, thus placing the girls in vulnerable situations in terms of protection, opportunities and healthy behaviours.
This was evident in the Gender Vulnerability Index 2017 study (a report by Plan India) which attempted to identify India’s current status across the four dimensions of Education, Health, Poverty and Protection by using 170 indicators. The report shows that only 73.14% female are literate, and 68.8% female ever attended school. Only 35.7% women completed 10 or more years of schooling, and 6.3% women are graduates.
Plan India has been working towards the holistic development and advancement of girls for more than four decades. It has been implementing impactful and innovative programmes on education, early childhood care, youth employment household economy and income generation that ensures children, girls and women are bolstered to realise their full potential and also access their rights. Through some of our initiatives such as GARV, Lets Girl Be Born, Safer Cities, Missing Child Alert and Meri Beti, Meri Shakti – wherein gender equality, gender violence, gender transformation and importance of gender sensitive environment are strongly addressed, we are noting positive changes in terms of an attitudinal and behaviour shift towards the girl child. We will continue to work for girls’ rights as it is at the very core of our commitment which is to impact the lives of 10 million girls by 2020 and advocate for their equality, inclusion and empowerment.
We are optimistic that through a collaborative approach and strategic partnership with the government, civil society, corporate, media and the youth, we will be able to bring about a paradigm shift and aim for a world wherein, girls can learn, lead, decide and thrive.