We stay in one of the tribal villages close to Coimbatore where in the last years a lot of change has happened. It is a village with about 350 people/hundred families. Three women Self Help Groups have been set up six years ago and since then a huge number of trainings and awareness programs on topics such as basic business and administrative skills, sanitation and health have taken place. Not all, but most of the women have decided to organize themselves in these groups. Children have attended school on a regular basis and education for girls and boys is supported nowadays by most of the village people. When I ask some parents they say: “We want that our children go to school and get a good education. This is important. ” Not all of the children and youth reach really high school levels, but the trend to go for it is visible.
“School education for our children is a must” – the reasons of a wide acceptance and direct support of school education may differ
School education is essential and this development gives a lot of hope for the future. But not always the motivation behind is the same. Where in early times a huge dowry was necessary for getting a girl married – in some regions this still exists and leads even to huge financial and social issues within the families (officially, dowry requests are forbidden …) – today this dowry request is often about good education which future wives should bring along. Education is widely recognized as one of the main factors that lead to more wealth. This development corresponds to the overall increase of women’s literacy rate in India which has increased from 29.8 percent to 65.5 per cent between 1981 and 2011. Now in 2015, the literacy rate will be even higher and wealthier regions have reached nearly 100%.
But, literacy does not mean always high literacy and a better school education has many faces. The range of life perceptions and personal developments is wide. Even if the schools, teachers and living surroundings might be very similar.
When I ask three girls of the same village and age about their own ideas of being successful, I get spontaneously three very different answers.
“I want to have ten or twelve goats of my own. This means my family and me will have a wealthier life”, says the first of the girls. “I would like to be able to buy lipsticks,” adds the second one.
The third girl is more hesitant, but then I’m really surprised to get her answer: “I want to go to the college and study microbiology. If my marks are high enough. Next week I will know and my parents would support me. My sister she already lives in town. I could stay there. But there are many issues, eg how to pay the study fees …”
More school and trainings, some influences by eg TV sponsored by the government, some dreams: the young generation starts to aspire, even aspire beyond their capabilities and means. Their ambitions are not unrealistic, some will be manageable easily. Others require besides education and self confidence even a huge willingness and some luck. It will be a long and difficult way to go to break through the shakles that society has tied them with. But some of them will make it, even it still may take some time.
1: Source: “Female Literacy Rate in India”, C. Chandramouli, Provisional Population Totals, statement 20 – literacy rate in India 1951 -2011