US First Lady Michelle Obama has praised the recent steps taken by India to educate and empower girl students through various programmes that break down the cultural barriers that keep them out of school.
“I am thrilled that countries like Ghana and India and Rwanda are already doing such important work as part of this effort -- from scholarships and mentorship opportunities, to innovative programmes to break down the cultural barriers that keep girls out of school,” Michelle said.
“We need you to work with the Bank to develop programmes that will meet the needs of girls in your countries. And if your country has already reached gender parity in education, then we need you to step up and support countries where disparities still exist,” she said in her remarks at a Special Event at the World Bank titled “Let Girls Learn!”.
During the event, the World Bank announced $ 2.5 billion in support of adolescent girls’ education over the next five years. “That is truly amazing,” Michelle said.
The Indian Government has taken a series of steps including “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” towards education and empowerment of girls in the country, the Indian Ambassador to US Arun K Singh said.
India’s National Campaign for Secondary Education aims to make quality education for adolescent girls accessible and affordable, enhancing the enrolment by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance, improving the quality of education by ensuring compliance to prescribed norms and removal of gender, social-economic and disability barriers, he said.
“The goal is to achieve an enrollment of 90% by 2017, and universal retention by 2020. In five years, enrollment of Girls has improved from 58.70 to 78.94. Gender Parity Index has increased from 0.88 to 1. And there is sharp reduction in Gender gap,” Singh said.
India, he said, has rolled out a national incentive scheme that gifts money to young women from disadvantaged backgrounds when they turn 18 and have passed their 10th grade exams.
“Separate toilets have been built for girls in over 96% of secondary schools. Hostels were constructed close to schools to serve girls from remote areas. In one particular scheme, bicycles were given to girls who completed elementary school, making it easier for them to go to schools,” he said adding that more and more female teachers are being hired.
According to Michelle, the World Bank funding was not just a breathtaking investment of resources but also a powerful statement of mission.
“It’s an expression of our belief in the power of education to transform the lives and prospects of millions of girls worldwide, as well as the prospects of their families, their communities, and, of course, their countries. And it’s also an affirmation of these girls’ extraordinary promise,” she said.