October 11 is observed as International Day of the Girl Child to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face in today's world. It also promotes the empowerment and fulfilment of their rights. The theme of this International Day of the Girl Child 2018 is 'With Her: A Skilled GirlForce'. In times of rising crimes against women, there is a lot to be done to make the world a safer place for them.
Discrimination on the basis of gender is one of the main problems girls today face; at a very young age, the concept of gender-appropriate roles is imbibed into their minds. They are expected to look, sit, walk, talk, everything like a girl. In a country like India where we unfortunately only endorse fair skin, girls with darker skin shades are looked down up. And everyone in the family is constantly trying to find ways to help her achieve a lighter skin tone. What for? And surprisingly boys are never bound by such orthodox thoughts. Girls are told what is expected of them and the society wants them to deliver it.
From being limited in day-to-day activities with every step being watched, many grow up in an airtight environment not even knowing the opportunities they have. While the times are changing, we have a long way to go and make the world and then everything inside it available to women also. As we celebrate the Girl Child Day, six women share real-life experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination they faced as girls. International Day of The Girl Child 2018: Origin, Theme and Importance of The Day Dedicated to Girls Across The Globe.
1. Not to come home late because I am a girl: Riddhi Jadhav
"Every time there is a plan to go out and come late at night, I have not been allowed or rather advised not to 'come late' because I am a girl. Meanwhile, I have seen my cousins who can enjoy much liberty because of them being boys. The situation is such that you cannot really blame the elders but it also gives one, self-doubts if you actually plan to stay back late. The time limit for a girl to get back home is still restricted."
2. Stopped from filing sexual harassment complaint: Anonymous
"I never got support from my parents to file a police report against my uncle who sexually harassed me twice. Their response to this has always been typical-- 'log kya kahenge'."
3. I was often teased for my skin colour: Nithya Nair
"My relatives often during conversations (in front of me) mentioned how I had wheatish skin tone while most other kids in the extended family were fair skinned. Boys with dark skin were never told anything like that. It was my mother who constantly told me I was beautiful (that's what all mothers say) and should not pay heed to them. But you grow up with insecurity and consider yourself lower to others. My mom acted like a protective shield everytime a nasty comment was directed at me. International Day Of The Girl Child 2018: 6 Science-Backed Benefits of Being a Girl.
Thanks to her and self-realisation, today skin of my colour hardly bothers me. I am quite comfortable in my body and also ensure I give a piece of my mind in the nicest way possible to those commenting on anyone's looks. If I ever had a chance to meet the younger me, I would tell myself that looks hardly matter and to be not affected what narrow-minded people had to say."
4. No girl in my family was allowed to perform Ganpati aarti: Anonymous
"Initially, during Ganpati, we as kids at my grandparents' house were not allowed to perform the aarti just because we were girls so that was something that hurt me a lot. Just because we could not carry the family's name ahead, no woman/girl in the house was allowed to perform the aarti. But thankfully that changed with time, but not completely."
5. I can't cook like my other female cousins: Anonymous
"When I was young, the toughest part about being a girl was the constant comparisons I had to endure. I was often told to learn from my cousins and my friends who fit the ideal of how girls ought to be -- demure and soft-spoken. I was outspoken and a little un-girly. Till date, despite what I achieved professionally, my relatives still scoff at the fact that I can't cook like my other female cousins."
6. You are a girl, it is not safe for you to leave your parents and stay alone: Anonymous
"When I was a little girl...
My parents are very conservative so as a teenager, I was restricted from doing a lot of things. This included going out for girls night outs and sometimes staying out till late in the night. During my growing up years, I had a very tough time convincing my parents to let me do all of those things which were very normal for other girls of my age. However, my brother was never really asked to not stay home in the night, neither was he stopped from going out with his friends for night outs. International Day of the Girl Child 2018: 7 Things You Should Not Stop Your Daughter From Doing.
Not just that, I expressed my desire to go out of Mumbai for further studies after my grads but I was obviously not allowed to and was told: 'You are a girl, it is not safe for you to leave your parents and stay alone'. But, guess what? my parents considered sending my brother abroad, leave alone going to another state/city in the same country, for job opportunities and further studies.
There have been many such instances when I have been asked to behave in a particular way or to not do certain things "because I am a girl" and I am sure there are a lot of them out there like me. My only question is, "Why the unfair treatment in the day and age when women are doing twice as good as their male counterparts?" I am not saying that women are superior to men but all I am saying is equal and I mean EQUAL opportunities should be given to everyone irrespective of their gender."
One of the main issues women face is gender inequality. Calling out discrimination, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres writes, "Since the 1990s, some areas have seen 25% more male than female births - sex selection which reflects the low status of women & girls. On Thursday's #DayOfTheGirl, I call for an end to discrimination that starts in the womb." According to the United Nations, 600 million adolescent girls will enter the workforce in the next decade. And to ensure their full participation, we need to tackle gender stereotypes across professions. This Girl Child Day let's not only pledge to become a catalyst in giving equal opportunities to girls but also raise our voices against sexist norms.