Sunday, June 9, 2013

What happens to all the smart girls?

Came across this article,and saddened to know such things still happen...maybe not in cities...but in small towns maybe:(...Below are the writer's thoughts:
The Board examination results are out and a fresh batch of youngsters are scurrying around for college admissions. Every year when I see the news about cut-off percentages for colleges and the all India ranks, I recall my own examinations. I was one of those good studious girls who worried about marks and ranks. I cried for a whole day because I had erroneously left out a two-mark question in my class 10 physics examination. In the long run, it doesn't seem to have mattered at all but back then it seemed as though nothing would ever be right in the world again.

In India, the Board exams are awaited with more anxiety and eagerness than the Union Budget or elections. All activity in the house revolves around the young one studying for these exams. Younger siblings are silenced, mothers focus on preparing nutritious meals and motivational sermons, all the Gods are importuned and everyone is in a state of hushed tension. The 10th and 12th exams are an important milestone, a sort of rite of passage in the life of every educated young person. They are supposed to be a forerunner to every other test in life and a forecast of success or failure across your lifespan. The nature of results can trigger unnecessary suicides or disproportionate euphoria among boys and girls.

This year, yet again, girls have outscored boys in all these important exams. My newspaper informs me that in the Class XII CBSE exams, girls have received an average of 87.9 per cent against 77.78 per cent for the boys. They have performed marginally better than the boys in class 10 exams as well. Most of the school toppers are girls. Wonderful! I am thrilled for these young ladies. I am also scared for them. I wonder what happens to them after school. Where do the smart girls go?

I remember a girl in our school. She was in my sister's class, a bright young girl with shiny braids framing a soft round face. I think her name was Usha. Her father refused to let her attend college. She was kept at home after passing her class 12 exams with distinction. My sister and her friends trooped to her home to reason with her father but they were sent back with a scolding. They were not allowed to meet their friend who was crying in the adjoining room. We don't know what happened to that girl. We heard a few months later, that she had got engaged. I hope she is happy, at peace.

In school, especially in the urban areas, the number of girls and boys are almost equal. According a news report, in India, only 18 out of 100 school pass-outs actually go to college. Out of these, the number of girls is abysmally low. Only 9 per cent of the students in IITs are girls. I remember being one of the 6 girls in a class of 57 in business school. It gets worse when women enter the workforce and crawl up the corporate ladder. Only 5 per cent of the boards of companies have women on them. My work, as a leadership development facilitator and coach, takes me to many organisations. I meet very few women in senior leadership positions. In a group of 30 employees attending a leadership development programme, there could be one or two women. What happens to those smart ambitious women who graduate from college? What happens to those smart young women who enter the workforce with dreams in their eyes? What happens between the Board exams and the Board of directors?

In school and college, women are as ambitious and keen to succeed as men. They work hard, are equally committed, equally or more sincere and focussed. Ask any young girl today what she wants to become and she will say Doctor/Engineer/Miss India/writer/computer scientist/singer with complete confidence that she will make it. Some do, many don't. It would be easy to blame the patriarchal society, our traditions, other people who don't let us pursue our dreams - from unreasonable parents, demanding in-laws, callous husbands, the needy children, the terrible bosses. They all perhaps do play a part. But somewhere along the way, the smart young girls decide that it is not worth it, all the pressure, the struggle, the fight to constantly prove yourself, the lone battle in an unfriendly terrain.

Much smarter to convince yourself that you are happy to scale down the ambitions, to lock those dreams away and be grateful for whatever you are given. We teach our girls, the lucky ones who do get to school, to work hard, study hard and do well as long as they are in school. After that, we ask them to be reasonable, to adjust, to repay the favours that have been done with obedience and acceptance. Maybe we should teach our daughters to not only be smart but also to be a little foolish, a little selfish and a little reckless. Maybe, then they won't vanish in the haze of broken dreams.

1 comment:

  1. Nice one... :)
    Actually we should teach girls "to not only be smart but also to be a little foolish, a little selfish and a little reckless."
    We are fortunate but most are not..