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Empowerment of women: The need of the hour
Women empowerment is an urgent need. We have nearly 50 crore females, which few countries in the world can boast of having. Women's potentialities and possibilities must be explored. A few initiatives for encouraging female education have been taken.
FEMALE EDUCATION is the cry of the day in the 21st century, which is now being called ’a century of women’. In the effort to enhance the level of girls’ participation in education , the country has to achieve universal elementary education in the stipulated time frame.

Two new programmes, one targeting formal schools, the other targeting girls in remote habitations, have been launched to include girls in elementary education. The programme, launched in September 2003, provides additional components for education of girls at the elementary stage, especially from disadvantaged communities.

It is the fundamental right of females to get education, as the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 makes elementary education a fundamental right of every child. The Constitutional amendment itself clinches the argument for ensuring that all girls – and boys – receive eight years of good quality education.

Female education is a popular demand . Many surveys reveal that contrary to popular belief, poor parents in India are very keen on sending their daughters to school. The demand for girls’ education is high, and is growing.

For the sake of individual well-being, female education is required. Basic education promotes the well-being of girls. More educated women tend to be better informed, enjoy better opportunities for employment, and seek out modern health care and advice more readily.

Female education is needed for social and economic progress. Education brings benefits to society as well. Educated women are more likely to work in the wage economy, earn higher wages and make better entrepreneurs. Educated women tend to marry late and have fewer children, contributing to improved child and maternal health in society.

Political participation – As more and more young girls get educated and complete eight years of schooling, they will be able to participate more meaningfully in local governance.

Female education ensures inter-generational benefits. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that educated mothers give birth to healthier and better-nourished children than uneducated mothers. An educated mother is more likely to send her own children to school so that benefits are reinforced across generations.

Social justice is impossible without ensuring female education. The link between educational deprivation and social inequality is becoming more and more obvious every day. Ensuring better schooling opportunities for girls is the right step towards ensuring social and gender justice.

According to last census held in 2001, the percentage of female literacy in the country is 54.16 per cent. The empowerment of girls and women through education is reflected in more than one of the six Dakar goals. A number of national and state level initiatives directed at girls and women have been the hallmark of educational interventions for improving the educational status of girls and women.

Five of the most prominent factors responsible for poor female literacy rate are:
a) Gender based inequality
b) Social discrimination and economic exploitation
c) Occupation of girl child in domestic chores
d) Low enrollment of girls in schools
e) Low retention rate and high dropout rate

Literacy campaigns have heightened social awareness among women regarding the importance of education, both for themselves as well as for their children. As women come out of their homes and take part in the campaigns with great enthusiasm, they acquire a heightened sense of self-awareness and desire to gain knowledge of women’s issues.

Literacy campaigns have motivated and encouraged women learners to educate their children, particularly girls, by enrolling them in formal schools. It has given women an opportunity to break the isolation, which is socially structured into their lives, giving them a chance to meet other women and learn collectively, rather than learn singly as individuals. Literacy campaigns have helped to spread knowledge about health care and nutrition, thereby enabling mothers to keep their family in better health and to care better for their children.

It is really commendable that the central govt has introduced two new scholarship schemes for encouraging higher education of the females.

A new scholarship scheme has been introduced from the academic session 2006-07 for single girl child studying in the schools affiliated with the board. As per the new scholarship scheme, all single girl children who secure 60 per cent or more marks in their class X examinationfor the year 2006 onwardswould be given scholarship of Rs 500 pm for studying in classes XI and XII in schools, which charged tuition fee of not more than Rs 1,000 pm during the academic year 2005-06.

The post-graduate Indira Gandhi scholarships for the single girl child announced by the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry in September this year to address the bias against the girl child encouraged higher education of the females in India; Kerala topped the list with a lion’s share of the scholarships. Tamilnadu comes a distant second with 182 awardees and Andhra Pradesh third with 84 scholarships coming its way in this category.

Under the scheme, every single girl child within the conventional university system would be eligible for the scholarship. Each awardee will get Rs 2,000 a month for two years and the university grants commission (UGC) is also proposing a fee waiver for such students. Though this scheme was announced in between the 2005-06 academic session, it will be implemented with retrospective effect. Indira Gandhi, after whom the scheme has been named, was herself a single girl child. From this year onwards, such scholarships will be offered for single girl child pursuing M Phil and Ph D in state or central universities.

All these are initiatives for encouraging female education in India. But we have more miles yet to go.

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