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This soul-stirring, award-winning short-film calls for investing in girls’ education

Anjali Koli, writer and co-director of ‘Padh likh kar kya karegi’ and an alumnus of Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication says welcoming the girl child into this world is a prerequisite for women’s empowerment.

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The short film by five students of Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication (AIMC), New Delhi bagged the 2nd prize in the coveted ‘Filmotsav’ contest organised by Jagan Institute of Management Studies (JIMS), Rohini. ‘Padh likh kar kya karegi’, which espouses the cause of girls’ education, was made for UNICEF and Lok Samvad Sansthan, an NGO based in Jaipur. In an informal chat, Anjali, Executive – Creatives, Concepts and Copywriting with Communique India, sheds light on the common barriers to girls’ schooling, the need to celebrate the birth of the girl-child, role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, and more. Edited excerpts:

What according to you are the common hurdles that keep girls out of school?

Around 130 million girls worldwide were out of school before Covid-19, according to UNESCO, and more than 11 million may not return to classes. There are many factors behind such dismal numbers such as poverty, sexual assault and harassment, child marriage, trafficking and so called ‘honour’ crimes. Women have to bear the brunt of gender inequality from childhood through to old age. What is alarming is that there’s a belief among perpetrators that violence against women and girls is normal or appropriate behaviour. In an ideal society, we should celebrate the birth of the girl-child.

Anjali Koli

What more needs to be done to celebrate the birth of every girl child?

It’s an open secret that there is still a preference for a male child among scores of people. Girls are considered to be a burden to their family and called ‘Paraya Dhan’, which means her real place belongs with her in-laws. I believe celebrating the birth of girl child is the first step to reducing discrimination towards girls. India’s population is among the youngest in an ageing world. The youth hold the key in creating awareness and demanding gender equality as it’s not an agenda of women versus men. Everyone should work to make a conducive environment for every girl child.  According to the World Economic Forum, for every dollar invested into girls’ rights and education, developing nations could see a return of $2.80.

How can men play an active role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment?

Women’s empowerment can only be achieved if men and boys take full responsibility, working alongside women and girls, to break the stereotypical gender norms at home, community, and the workplace. For example, the UN Women’s campaign ‘HeForShe’ kicked-off a global social media campaign inviting men and boys to share their everyday actions to support gender equality. Since its launch at the United Nations in 2014, millions of men from around the world have committed to gender equality. We all must advocate for women’s access to education, employment, rights, and opportunities. There may be difficulties but efforts must continue.

Since you are in the domain of movie-making, who is your favourite woman filmmaker?  I adore the work of Indo-Canadian film director and screenwriter, Deepa Mehta, best known for her Elements trilogy: ‘Fire’, ‘Earth’, and ‘Water’. Her movies are a critique of patriarchy. Importantly, her success shows that Indian women can thrive outside of traditional career paths.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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