#CelebrateGirls: Financial Barriers to Education

This post was written by Milaan Co-Founder, Sharat Goswami, as an overview of the very prominent barrier to education for adolescent girls: Finances.

Financial Barriers to Girls’ Education
Of late, I have come across several remarks along the lines of ‘Now that education for 6-14 year olds is free, there is no financial reason for parents not to send their daughters to school.’ On the face of it, it instinctively feels right, after all primary schooling today can be a substantial financial burden.
There are, however, matters of perception unique to rural India perhaps not instantly apparent. The most significant of these is the perceived opportunity cost of educating girls as compared to household chores. With chores parents see direct financial benefits such as feeding the cows mean money from the milk, or harvesting leads to money from selling the produce. With education this kind of direct financial benefit is much harder to see.
Having gotten along just fine without an extensive education themselves, parents are unable to visualize the long term value of educating a girl. Especially when they factor in the cost of her marriage together with the fact that once married she brings no financial gains to the family.
Another perception that parents in rural societies have to deal with, is that when considering marriage proposals, the more educated the girl is the more educated the boy needs to be. The more educated the boy is, the higher the dowry. This unfortunate circumstance means that parents consider holding back a girls education, to be in the best financial interest of the family.
There are also hidden opportunity costs in terms of copies and pen/pencils even though the school maybe providing books. Travelling to and from school when the school is further away,  can also be a cost, in terms of investment in either a bicycle or fare for daily commuting.
In rural communities, girls’ education is not only a matter of simple economics. The real battle is changing this fundamental mindset that leads to the perception of educating a girl being an investment with no returns.
Winning this battle would be a huge step towards universal education in India. Conversely, not focussing on this critical aspect will hamper any steps to educate girls, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem.
- Sharat Goswami, Milaan General Secretary and Co-Founder
To engage further on addressing and dismantling barriers to adolescent girls’ education with our #CelebrateGirls Campaign, contact or lend your voice to the conversation using the hashtag #CelebrateGirls or during our tweetchat (@SupportMilaan) on 15 October at 1pm IST. Top photo taken by Milaan School student.

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