After working on preventing cases of domestic violence during the lockdown, the Women’s Safety and Vigilance Committees, formed by Pune Zilla Parishad (ZP) in villages across the district, have now been tasked to ensure that girl students do not stay back from pursuing higher education after Class X and Class XII.
Nearly 25,000 volunteers linked to 1,455 committees have been asked to reach out to girls who have passed Class X and Class XII in the recently-announced state board results, and find out if they would be continuing their higher education and if not, the reasons behind the decision.
To their surprise, of the 10,544 girl students contacted, only 203 reportedly said that they didn’t face any obstacles in continuing higher studies. The rest of the girls pointed to one or more reasons — including financial inability, marriage plans, parental attitude against higher education for girls, non-availability of transport facilities, lack of employment opportunities and fear of harassment by men — which made the option of continuing higher education untenable for them or their parents.
“As many as 5,307 girls (or their families) told us that they were facing financial difficulties in continuing higher education, 1,680 had issues pertaining to transport between home and college, and 62 girls said that their parents had planned to marry them off. All these responses were recorded in Google Forms and sent to us. We analysed the data and have formulated a programme to remove these obstacles that stand between girl students and higher education,” said Dr Ratnaprabha Potdar, supervisor of the Integrated Child Development Scheme, Pune Zilla Parishad.
Now, Chief Executive Officer of Pune Zilla Parishad, Ayush Prasad, and Chairperson of ZP’s Women and Child Committee, Pooja Parge, have devised a programme ‘Majhe Shikshan – Majha Adhikar’, under which they will take concerted efforts to remove these obstacles.
“You will be surprised to know that in rural areas, girls who score as high as 90 per cent in Class X or Class XII may end up staying away from higher education,” said Prasad. “To correct this, we are launching some social interventions and some schematic ones. Social interventions will be providing counselling to parents. At the same time, we will provide them information about the existing schemes for certain groups and female students in general that may alleviate their financial burden,” said Prasad.
“We will help girls from financially weaker families in getting various scholarships, admission to government-run hostels and other monetary aid. We are speaking to PMPML and MSRTC to ensure that timely bus services are operated on the routes connecting a group of students with the college. If they face harassment, we will involve the local police to make the girls and their families feel safe,” said Prasad.
In the first few weeks of the lockdown, the National Commission for Women had reported a sharp rise in the number of complaints it received regarding domestic abuse.
The WSV committees were formed by Pune ZP in mid-April, amid reports of increased domestic violence in villages during the lockdown. The committees comprises a government representative, anganwadi workers, self-help group members, small savings group members, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and gram panchayat women members, who offer case-by-case solutions ranging from phone counselling to filing complaints with the local police station.
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