Gender equality is recognised as key to development, though it is yet to be fully achieved in any country. United Nations member states pledged to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals, including gender equality, by 2015. Progress has been uneven, and now the question for the international community is what the post-2015development framework should be.
As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has noted, gender equality as a development goal is “unfinishedbusiness":
Although there has been progress in some areas such as girls’ access to primary education and women’s economic empowerment, the level of achievement has been uneven across regions and within countries. There is no chance of making poverty history without significant and rapid improvements to the lives of women and girls in all countries.
The OECD suggest that increased investment in the following five policy areas could have catalytic effects on development beyond 2015: Keeping girls in school; improving reproductive health and family planning; economic empowerment; supporting leadership; and stopping violence against women.
Helping girls realize their dreams
Protsahan in India is an example of a social initiative that – without waiting for government action – is directly addressing these issues at a grassroots level, affecting the lives of hundreds.
They work to educated is advantaged girls from slums and red light areas through creative arts. It was established by a young woman called Sonal Kapoor and is run by a team of young people, many of them volunteers.
Kapoor was prompted by an encounter with a woman in Delhi who was sending her eight-year-old daughter to a brothel in order to support her five other daughters – and was planning to strangle the seventh child she was pregnant with if it turned out to be a girl.
How many times have you blamed the country, the politicians, the mafia or “anyone” for the prevailing issues? It’s a fact that the economic gap, the growing discrepancies between evolving and degrading sections is so stark that it can be labeled as alarming now. While a small portion is growing wealthier, another section of the society is depleting with each passing day. [...] We have envisioned a way to do our bit, to hold some hands and to realize dreams for the less fortunate. [...] Our kids want support not just sympathy. They want a chance to live a better life, to contribute to the building of a better society. We want you to be a part of this initiative and help in the transformation.
The following video introduces the organisation's work:
The power of art
Protsahan offers a curriculum based on art and creativity that then allows the children to go on to study in government schools – and to change their communities. Kapoor explains:
These children come from very tough backgrounds. As a creative medium, the arts stimulate cognitive development, encourage innovative thinking and creativity and engender understanding.
A group of girls is currently writing, shooting and editing a film on the problem of open defecation, which will subsequently be screened in their communities. Kapoor (@ArtForCause) tweeted:
Photography is another skill being taught:
The girls at Protsahan recently performed in a play looking at the issue of violence against women:
American blogger Nicole Melancon (@thirdeyemom) visited Protsahan and posted a compilation of her photos:
As the world looks ahead to what the post-2015development framework should be, it's likely that true gender equality will only be achieved with the creativity, innovation and support of concerned citizens as well. Protsahan is an example of what is possible at the local level.
This post first appeared 8 August, 2013 on the Global Voices blog.