India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions. Throughout the year, it celebrates numerous festivals ranging from religious to commemorating a popular figure and some marked to spread awareness. Rashtriya Balika Divas is one such festival which is dedicated to spread awareness on the welfare and concerns of a girl child in India. It is celebrated on 24th January, every year.
This initiative was taken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development which was then undertaken by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009. The day, 24th January, is also the day when Indira Gandhi was elected as the first woman Prime Minister of India, in the year 1966.
Female infanticide is a wide spread problem in India. The ratio of female to male child is dismal and there is a shocking rise in the number of cases of abuse and neglect of the girl child’s health. Based on the statistics by savegirlchild.org, India has a very unfavorable child sex ratio (CSR). A huge percentage of girls in India are victims to underage marriage. Malnutrition, sexual abuse and underage marriage are responsible for a high number of female mortality cases. This is not conducive to any healthy society as it will manifest in a growing number of crimes and societal imbalance. The resulting crime, in turn will also increase government expenditure which will lead to economic deficit.
In order to sensitize people on this issue, the Rashtriya Balika Divas day was created to spread awareness. Although, a lot still needs to be done, various initiatives have been implemented for the welfare of the girl child in India. Some of these are the "Dowry Prohibition Act", "Child Marriage Restraint Act", "Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act", free education for the girl child and so on. Even though these are baby steps, they are steps in the right direction and have yielded positive results. A lot also depends on the awareness of the Indians, especially in certain districts of India. With this objective, the Rashtriya Balika Divas day is celebrated to create more awareness on the rights of a girl child.
On this day, many functions and events are organized by the NGOs all over the country. Government ministers and important dignitaries participate in these events to provide more visibility. Special film screenings, theatrical performances and competitions are organized, dedicated to the girl child. The Rashtriya Balika Divas day also witnesses the state governments honoring the girl students for outstanding achievements in their respective fields. Educational institutions celebrate this day to spread more awareness amongst their students on the rights of a girl child. Banners, posters and other tools are used to propagate the message that a female.