International Day of the Girl (Issue 21, 2012)

Eshan AryaAn estimated 77.6 million girls worldwide are not enrolled in school – almost equivalent to the entire population of Egypt.

This was one of many statistics presented during an International Day of the Girl event at the La Trobe University’s Melbourne campus library, held to highlight and challenge the status of girls in impoverished circumstances in other countries around the globe.

The United Nations General Assembly initiated International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October last year as a global campaign to tackle issues ranging from forced marriage to lack of education.

Key organiser of the La Trobe event, Ravneet Mundi, said if 10 per cent more girls of a particular population went to school, their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would increase on average by 3 per cent.

Co-host, Eshan Arya, said in India there were girls named Nakusa, which means ‘unwanted’ in the Marathi language, in the state of Maharashtra.

Eshan, an international student from India, said parents named their third daughter accordingly out of superstition that the next child would be a boy – a much-favoured gender. One of the reasons for males being favoured is the expense of marrying-off girls in poor families.

‘Usually mother in-laws or family members from the father's side of the family force the mother to name their daughter Nakusa, so there is a great deal of pressure from society placed on women,’ Eshan said.

‘Being a girl, this is one of the social issues in India and this is one of our goals, to educate students about this problem.’

Eshan, who is completing a Master of International Relations with Honours, said his mother, a social worker, and a friend, made a documentary about the issue which he showed at the International Day of the Girl event.
While there have been efforts in recent years such as renaming ceremonies of school-aged girls, the problem of inequality and discrimination still dominates. In one district of India, 293 girls named Nakusa were given new names in an official ceremony – but India has 460 districts. Eshan said the girls bear emotional scars from having had the unwanted label for much of their young lives.

Ravneet, who is also a La Trobe student, developed the idea to host the event after studying on exchange at Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi, an international exchange partner of La Trobe University.