Exposition of the status of girl child in urban area.
A study was undertaken to determine the sex discrimination in child rearing in an urban low socio-economic chawl type of community. Totally 1101 children in the age group of 0-14 years (631 females and 470 males) in 346 families selected at random were studied. It was found that educational and nutritional status of both the sexes were comparable but partial coverage or non-coverage of immunisation was observed in more girls as compared to boys. Majority of parents (93.9%) expressed that they would get their daughter married after 18 years of age.
To be able to grow into an active, skilled and confident woman, a girl needs to be nurtured in an environment of dignity and opportunity. However, the girl child is the most deprived group, not only in terms of social status and educational facilities, but also nutrition and health. Therefore, though born stronger biologically than their male counterparts, in the developing countries the female children show higher mortality rates contributing to the sex ratio unfavourable to females.
A study conducted in UP, India, shows definite discrimination between male and female children. But Gopalan did not observe any sex discrimination in nutrition care in rural pre-school children. National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau also supports Gopalan's findings.
In view of inadequate documented information of this subject, we studied male and female children from communities in the BDD Chawls in Naigaon, a district of the city of Mumbai, with the following aims and objectives:
1. To compare the nutritional, education and immunisational status of female and male children.
2. To find out the parents' attitudes towards their daughters' educational and marital prospects.
Naigaon BDD Chawls is the field practice area of King Edward Memorial Hospital and is located within 1 km from it. There were 4051 families residing in these chawls, out of which 3463 families had at least one female child. Three hundred and forty six families out of these 3463 families were chosen for the study using the systematic random sampling method. Every tenth family was selected. The collection of data was done through interviews using the interview schedule seeking information on the structure of family, educational, socio-economic status and health status of children. Individual child in 0-14 year age group was weighed, measured for height and the questions regarding their present educational status were asked to the parents. If they had left studies the reasons were asked for. The parents' views regarding the continuation of children's studies were found out. In the case of girl child the parents were asked when they would marry their daughter and why so. Language of communication was Marathi or Hindi as applicable. The study period was 3 months from August to October 1990.
Literacy rate among the fathers was 93.4% and among mothers 76.2%. About 91.3% of fathers were employed, and per capita income of majority of the families was above Rs. 200 per month. (Range: Rs. 110-400, the median being Rs. 246.)
There were 631 female and 470 male children in the age group of 0-14 years in the 346 families studied. Of these, 552 female and 341 male children were in the pre-school and school-going age group of 3-14 years. This included the children going to the balwadis. (Nursery and K.G. schools.)
[Table - 1] shows educational status of the children in the 3-14 years age group. The school enrolment was 100%. About 10% children left school prematurely. There was no significant difference between the proportion of male and female school drop-outs.
[Table - 2] shows that reasons for majority of male as well as female children dropping out of school were financial difficulties and lack of motivation. No male child had to discontinue studies to take care of siblings, whereas 5 female children had to do so.
The parents of 92.1% (441/479) of the female children in school expressed willingness to allow them to continue school beyond the age of 14 years, the rest 7.9% were not so willing.
From [Table - 3] and 4 it is evident that there was no significant difference between the weights and heights of the female and male children in this study.
Weight and height of male children and 118 female children could not be obtained most of them went to school during our visits.
From [Table - 5], it is seen that significant difference was found in immunisation status between male and female children. This is in accordance with observation of Nirupam et al.
It was learnt from the parents that 93.9% (325) families wanted to get their daughters married after 18 years, while 6.1% (21) parents wanted to get their daughters married before the age of 18 years.
Out of 21 families who wished to marry their daughters before 18 years. 11 gave old traditions and customs and decisions of elders in their family as the reason. 5 said that they would marry their daughter if they get a good proposal before 18 years; in 4 probably poor educational status of parents and in 1 poor financial condition of family were the reasons.
From the above observations, it can be concluded that the educational and nutritional status of the male and female children in Naigaon community was comparable. This is attributed to not so low socio-economic status of that community. In majority, there was a favourable attitude towards education of girl children and except for a few families, there was no hurry to get female children married before 18 years of age.
However, immunisational coverage differed significantly. Immunisation of the child reflects the active efforts on the part of parents in taking the child to the health centre when he/she is not sick. It can, therefore, be recommended that health staff will have to make conscious efforts to achieve 100% immunisational coverage especially for the girl children.