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Mehbooba Mufti has taken effective steps to empower women through her first budget, notably focusing on girls’ education. Learn more!
In a country like India, where the traditional patriarchal structure does not let women express themselves openly, women are relegated to a secondary status in the public as well as private sphere.
While gender relations in society are constantly changing, political parties are slow to act positively to empower women. A milestone in empowering them is education which enables women to challenge their traditional roles in the society and help contribute to the progress of their community.
Female education has always been an issue of concern for both the government and the civil society which recognizes that women empowerment plays an important role in the growth of the country. History testifies to the fact that as more female political leaders come into their own, the outcomes do improve for women as a whole.
Mehbooba Mufti is one such domineering (though polarising) political figure who has taken the initiative to empower the women of Jammu and Kashmir, endowing them with a boost in educational, entrepreneurship and healthcare facilities with the release of her first budget.
Due to its remote location in the geographical context and also being a disturbed region, Jammu and Kashmir’s system of education is very vacillating with no stability for girls. One such measure included in Mufti’s new budget is the wavering of fees for girls in government schools to encourage families to send their daughters to school and allow them to study. This education encompasses both literary and non-literary education; including technical, vocational as well as health related education.
The entrenched resistance to educating women comes both from skewed gender relations and the prevalence of poverty in the society. Hence, practices like fee waivers for girls have been shown to effect both – the gender-biased families and the poverty-stricken ones thus encouraging girls of these families to stay in school till their primary education is complete.
While J&K does not have a history of strong gender bias unlike many other Indian states, it is possible that periodical disturbances and a climate of fear impact parents of girls when sending girls to school. As initiatives in other states have shown, helping girls come to school (and stay there) is a function of not only mindset change, but small, practical steps that incentivise families.
Fee waivers are one positive step, but in a state like J&K, it remains to be seen whether more can be done to ensure the basics of a normal environment that lets all children go to school in peace.
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