Across India, 39.4% girls aged 15-18 years drop out of school and college, according to a recent report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Of the girls who drop out, 64.8% do so not because they are working jobs, but because they are forced to take on household chores, or are engaged in begging.
“In other words, around 65% girls who do not attend any educational institution are either engaged in household activities, are dependents or are engaged in begging, etc,” the report said.
While the percentage of such “out-of-school” adolescent boys is not far behind, at 35%, only 33.4% of that number are “non-workers”, the recently published report said.
The commission said its report was aimed at not only highlighting the number of children who have dropped out, but also at showing how a majority of girls in the 15-18 age bracket are “left out of India’s current skill development programme”.
The report said India’s formal education system does not provide the skills that children require to earn a livelihood. Adolescent girls in India are “especially disadvantaged”, also given their low school enrollment rates. “They are among the most economically vulnerable groups who typically lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain the education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement,” the report said.
It pointed out that adolescent girls also lack support from society and are bogged down by “community social norms that create barriers to their economic advancement”.
The report recommended starting skill development schemes specifically for adolescents, apart from other policy-level changes.
The commission said the economic empowerment of adolescent girls can be a “critical lever” to their lives, as it would not only help them become financially independent, but will also mean more women in the labour force. The report said this will also help their confidence, and improve their health.