"I am extremely delighted to be amidst of all you and share my thoughts on the momentous occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Maris Stella College, an autonomous institution run by the religious congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
At the outset, I would like to convey my deepest appreciation to the college management for rendering yeoman service by empowering women through quality education.
I am happy to note that the college maintains consistently high academic standards and imparts holistic education that is grounded in sound values. I am also pleased to know that the special mission of the college is to reach out to students from socially and economically disadvantaged sections and prepare them to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. This is a very important dimension of your effective functioning as a premier educational institution as it is bound to transform the future of a large number of students from an underprivileged background.
Indeed, as has been often said, educating a woman is educating a family and the society. Securing a brighter future for our daughters assumes greater significance in a developing country like India, where women constitute 50 per cent of the population. Empowerment will change established gender narratives and ensure upward mobility of women in various fields. In other words, it will enable them to become leaders in their chosen areas. There is an urgent need for concerted efforts in this direction for women to realize their true potential and break the glass ceiling in many fields. It is about time that every barrier that hinders the progress of women is dismantled. It will be relevant here to recall the words of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who had famously said “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress women have achieved.”
Undoubtedly, we have made progress in girls’ education and in empowering women since Independence. While the literacy rate of females was just 12 per cent when India attained Independence, it has gone up to 70.30 per cent now. But, there is a long way ahead. There is a need to intensify efforts to promote girls’ education from primary schooling to higher education by the governments as well as the private sector. I am happy to note that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of girls has increased by 11 per cent across the country post the implementation of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme. We must remember that every empowered girl in turn, empowers other women and this must grow into an ever-widening circle of strength and support.
Another area of concern is the low female participation in the formal labour force in India. Ensuring increased participation of women in formal labour force is essential to significantly increase their contribution to the GDP as also for inclusive growth. This problem has to be addressed on a war footing by all the stakeholders. The first step in this direction will be to remove the wide disparity in wages across all industries. There cannot be a compromise on the fact that gender equality must be reflected in the wage structure.
One of the foundational aspects for educational institutions for increasing the employability of women is to introduce skill-based courses. I am pleased to know that the academic programmes offered by Maris Stella include both foundation and skill-based courses with focus on internships, projects and field work to enhance their competence and employability of students.
While introducing skill-based courses, it is important for educational institutions to form linkages with the industries and tailor the courses in accordance with their requirements. That will not only increase the employability of students but would also prepare them to meet the challenges on the job front.
No nation can progress without the educational empowerment of women on a national scale. This is where the National Education Policy-2020, has added relevance. It is a visionary document which seeks to address gender gaps in education and provide equitable education. It has set the goal to achieve 100 per cent enrolment of girls in schools by 2035 and 50 per cent in higher education institutions. Effective implementation of NEP is crucial to ensure equitable education and transform the educational landscape in the country.
I am also happy to note that this college is offering Social Work in its B. A. programme to develop a sense of commitment to social justice among students and encourage them to regard service to others as a way of life. It is extremely important to inculcate the values of empathy and sensitivity among students. It is important to bear in mind that ‘care and share’ is at the core of Indian philosophy.
I must also compliment the college for striving to sensitize students to environmental issues and for having embarked on activities such as plantation, vermicomposting, rain water harvesting, garbage segregation and other green practices.
I would also like to stress the importance of character building and integrity through value-based education. Here I would like to recall the words of Swami Vivekananda, who had said:“We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet”.
Education is not only for employment, but for enlightenment and empowerment. It must produce responsible and socially conscientious citizens with a nationalist outlook. I would like to emphasize that there should be zero tolerance towards gender discrimination. There is a need to bring about a change in the mindset of the people and this transformation should begin at home where boys and girls are treated equally.
In conclusion, I would like to say that all of you young women have the collective power not only to change your lives and that of the communities around you, but also the world we live in. Believe in your innate creativity and capacity to face challenges and your ability to catalyze change. With heightened awareness of your strengths and rights, you are destined to become leaders of change.