How I Have Learned About Girls Education in India

The International Day of the Girl Assembly at Elisabeth Irwin High School was a tremendous success. My role during this assembly was to read some facts and statistics about girls’ education in India. I was proud to present this information because we have been learning about these issues in my high school feminism course. I also found some of my statistics to be very powerful and shocking, such as how India has the world’s largest child population at around 400 million, and such a large percentage of this 400 million are girls who do not have an opportunity for education.

I found it shocking how a country with such a large population has millions of young people in complete poverty.  I felt that these stats were very gripping and could really make the audience think of just how privileged we are to be living in New York and attending a private school.  It was also really cool to see all of the familiar faces in the audience and to know that they are all experiencing the same revelation about the lack of education in the world as I did when I first started learning about all of the stories and statistics. The audience seemed to be engaged and into every video, statistical reading, and excerpt from our intersectionality essays.

What initially spoke to me the most was reading the chapters from Playing With Fire by Richa Nagar. The stories from this book were incredibly raw and revealing of the true issues that girls face in India, and it really opened my eyes to how severe the situation is. It opened my eyes to how much oppression there is in India and how large a role the caste system plays.

I always thought of castes as more traditional and old-fashioned forms of social hierarchy in India, but after reading Playing With Fire, it is obvious that caste oppression is very prevalent in modern day India. Nagar writes, “Members of the upper castes found it unbearable that a Dalit family could also see the dream of seeking education. They taunted ‘Why does this Paasi man waste so much money on his children’s schooling?’….His sons will become laborers when they grow up. His daughters will cut grass and wash and clean for others. It would be more appropriate for him to teach them skills that they can use later!”It was hard for me to read about how the poorer castes are scoffed at when they want to become something in life.

I presented information and statistics on education in India at the IDG assembly.
Photo Credit: Laura Hahn

I was also captivated by some of the stories that were in the Half the Sky PBS documentary. I found it amazing how they were able to document stories from different girls from countries around the world and tie them all together into a common cause. Some of the stories really made me put my own life into perspective and made me realize how fortunate I am to have the life that I do. One of the girls in Half the Sky from Sierra Leone really made realize this when she talked about all the struggles of her life and how all she wanted to do was to become a doctor. I have always known that the U.S. is a more democratic place where everyone is supposed to have a shot at success, but the Half the Sky stories made me realize how limited the opportunities for success are in many countries across the globe.

I am really excited to start getting in contact with the Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata, India. I think it is going to be an incredible experience to learn and share what both of our school and theirs have studied about the International Day of the Girl. I am eager to learn about what their stories are, and I am sure they are anxious to learn about what life in the U.S. is like. Between being able to connect with this Indian school and being a part of an awareness assembly that was taking place around the world, I felt like I was a part of something much larger. It did not feel like it was just me and my feminist classmates up on stage talking; it felt like we were part of the entire movement.

Overall, I have been thrilled to be taking part in the International Day of the Girl. I have always felt obligated to raise my awareness on world issues and the different forms of poverty and oppression that there are in the world, but I never got into doing this until now. All of the shocking statistics and stories from different areas of the world have raised my awareness and helped me realize how large the issues with girl’s education really are. I want to keep learning about these issues, and I want to keep discovering the ways in which I can help solve them.

13 thoughts on “How I Have Learned About Girls Education in India

  1. I found the readings from Playing with Fire by Richa Nagar very powerful as well. I felt that it was also very important for you to include the influence these pieces had on you during your presentation during the assembly. I enjoyed how you tied in our partner school as other members for this IDG movement

  2. I agree with a lot of the things you said about how successful the assembly was, and I think that there is a lot to be said about all of the facts and stories we shared with our audience. It’s hard to make someone care about something and I like how you sort of touched on the fact that we were dexterous in the way we made the audience listen and process what we were telling them.

  3. I agree with what you said about the caste system. The fact that one is born into a certain caste and if one is born into a lower caste, even if they work hard, they can’t ever get themselves out of their situation is sad.

  4. Reading about how your train of thoughts evolved with the level of education you received on the tragedies happening outside of this country, and even with in this country was an inspiring way to approach this blog. I thought that the way you executed your blog was great, you made it very personal, allowing readers to understand the way your personal thoughts have evolved through this class. Bravo!

  5. This is a great and honest piece that you wrote. I like how you shared statistics that stood out to you as well as the lives of real girls from developing countries. I agree with your sentence: “I felt that these stats were very gripping and could really make the audience think of just how privileged we are to be living in New York and attending a private school.” I also thought the same thing while I studied these facts and stories in class and how I felt thankful to have opportunities that others can’t have. I hope the audience felt the same. I also can’t wait to get in with the Shri Shikshayatan School!

  6. I appreciate your pride in the success of our class’s International Day of the Girl Assembly. I also liked that you mentioned “how privileged we are to be living in New York and attending a private school” while relaying these statistics of the issues of girls in India and other developing countries. I love how you took note of how gripping the facts were the audience seemed to realize their privilege as well. I also agree with your views on the caste system and how unfortunate it must be to never have the opportunity to be able to improve yourself no matter how hard you work. I thought your post was very honest. Keep up the good work!

  7. “I always thought of castes as more traditional and old-fashioned forms of social hierarchy in India, but after reading Playing With Fire, it is obvious that caste oppression is very prevalent in modern day India.” I had always thought this too, and was surprised and upset when I found out that it is still so widespread and accepted. I liked how excited you seem to have participated in the assembly, as we all were!

  8. The quote you used from Playing With Fire, these sentences in particular: “‘Why does this Paasi man waste so much money on his children’s schooling?’….His sons will become laborers when they grow up. His daughters will cut grass and wash and clean for others. It would be more appropriate for him to teach them skills that they can use later!” struck a chord in me. The quote is passionate, but disheartening. It’s unimaginable to think that even if you tried, and presented your children with opportunities to make their lives better – they would still be berated and belittled. The quote fit in perfectly with the rest of your blog, and just drove home the idea that International Day of the Girl is truely needed. This is a great piece, and it is obvious you have a strong personal connection with these issues.

  9. I truly appreciated your introduction, I agree with your point that it was powerful to make our peers aware that education is a great privilege that a lot of people do not have access to. People have a hard time recognizing privilege, especially when it is their own, and tend to take it for granted. For example, I always hear my peers and classmates complain about having to come to school and do not see it as a great fortune and opportunity. I also really liked that you talked about a lot of the things we read and saw in the class and your reaction to them. I loved how you mentioned the idea that “I am eager to learn about what their stories are, and I am sure they are anxious to learn about what life in the U.S. is like. … I felt like I was a part of something much larger. It did not feel like it was just me and my feminist classmates up on stage talking; it felt like we were part of the entire movement.” I do think it’s important to be able to relate to what we are studying about in order to connect on a deeper level to it and to then thrive to make a change. You also mentioned “All of the shocking statistics and stories from different areas of the world have raised my awareness and helped me realize how large the issues with girl’s education really are.” And I hope you realize you made a chnage by presenting those statistics and stories to the whole school and that by keeping on learning in our feminist course about these issues you will discover different ways in which you can help solve them somehow, little by little.

  10. Your presentation of education in India, was very captivating for me because it made me notice the wrongs in our world. In addition, your quote from feminist writer Richa Nagar’s Playing With Fire, “Why does this Paasi man waste so much money on his children’s schooling?’….His sons will become laborers when they grow up. His daughters will cut grass and wash and clean for others. It would be more appropriate for him to teach them skills that they can use later!” was very powerful in the sense that it shows the reader the destructive mindset that many people all around the world hold towards girls’ education.

  11. What was truly great about Richa Nagar’s Playing With Fire was the fact that it gave us a firsthand account of the experiences of girls in India. It evoked a similar response from me, for it’s honesty had a profound effect on me.

    The level of understanding and consciousness that you’ve gained through all of this knowledge is expressed when you talk about how “some of the stories [have] really made [you] put [your] own life into perspective” and have given you the ability to “realized how fortunate [you are] to have the life that [you] do”. I found this to be an important aspect of your piece because, as a young man exploring feminism, it’s important to hear the way that you’ve interpreted it and how it’s become a part of your life.

  12. A thoughtful post! I especially appreciated your reflection on our reading of Playing with Fire by Richa Nagar. I do think that book provides us with the direct experience of rural women in India who are trying to make change through feminist activism. I’m glad that reading it made an impact on you. I’m also very glad that you were able to make connections to other texts and videos that we watched in class. Your line, “It did not feel like it was just me and my feminist classmates up on stage talking; it felt like we were part of the entire movement,” is very true and powerful.You are clearly committed to these issues. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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