- National Girl Child Day is celebrated on January 24
- Early marriages can have poor health impact for girls: Dr S Shantha Kumari
- Take care of your girl child and help her thrive: Dr S Shantha Kumari
New Delhi: According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), India is the only large country in the world where more baby girls die than baby boys. Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) of the Government of India says that girls are often subjected to paramount inequalities and patriarchal discrimination and the struggle for her, begins even before the day she is conceived. In an effort to raise awareness on this issue, in 2008, MWCD started celebrating the National Girl Child day each year on January 24. On this National Girl Child Day, we speak with Dr S Shantha Kumari, President, Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI) about how violence against girl child can affect her health and wellbeing.
While talking about the kind of violence that girls can face, Dr Kumari said that any behaviour that affects a girl’s psychological, physical and sexual health, is what is called violence against her. She added,
Violence negatively affects a girl’s health- both physical and mental. Unfortunately, girls are subjected to violence right from the pre-birth phase. Be it the sex-selective abortion, infanticide or battering of a pregnant woman because she may be having a girl child and even when the girl child is growing up, we find events of incest and physical violence against the girl child. Now a day we even see a lot of cyber violence. When she grows up to be a woman, she is subjected to domestic violence, intimate partner violence and all sorts of sexual violence like forced pregnancies, forced abortions.
Dr Kumari added that violence against women contributes to maternal morbidity and mortality. She asserted that in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality and other goals like ending poverty, ending malnutrition, among others, the incidences of violence against girls and women must be reduced.
For raising awareness about the violence faced by girls and women, Dr Kumar started an initiative called Dheera in 2016. She talked about the importance of sensitising Obstetricians and Gynecologist on the violence faced by women as they are the first point of contact for females.
She highlighted that it is important to break the cycle of early marriage, early pregnancy, unhealthy young girls and an unhealthy future. She said,
Early marriage and women’s health is interlinked. We must understand that usually, it is poverty and the lack of education that force parents to marry their girls early. Unfortunately, when girls are not educated and are not aware about their health, they are subjected to many physical and mental health problems after getting married. The biggest, most prominent example is that most of the girls who get married at a younger age and are subjected to early pregnancies get Anaemia which contributes to maternal morbidity and mortality. It is important for parents to understand that their daughters should get married at an age when she is ready to face the physical and mental health challenges that come with it.
She stressed that healthier girls become healthier women and face lesser problems during pregnancy and society at large becomes healthier. While signing off, Dr Kumari highlighted the importance of empowering girls from an early age. She said,
In Indian culture, women are considered powerful. But what we need to understand is that just words are not enough. We need to take care of the girl child, provide her with enabling environment and empower her from an early age. By nurturing the girl child, you will nurture the future of the nation.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.