by Kathie England

A Small Step Toward Freedom

  • How is a bike a small step toward freedom for young girls in the state of Bihar in India?

Bihar is considered one of the least literate states in India with women’s literacy as low as 53 percent. But that is now changing. Thanks to a plan by the chief minister, all girls in classes 9 and 10 are entitled to a bicycle from the state (cost about $45 paid by the state to parents). Giving girls increased mobility is enabling them to travel free of cost to school. This saves money for their families, helps more girls stay in school, and helps enroll more girls in school. In rural areas a walk to school is usually at least 5 kilometers. With bikes the girls now have an increased sense of independence and safety.

During the first year of this program in the academic year 2007-2008, 170,000 additional girls made it to school. Today more than 500,000 are getting to school.

Conservative parents have usually been reluctant to allow daughters out of the house. Now they let them run errands and drop siblings off at school with their bikes.

Bihar’s principal secretary of human resources development writes in Ms. Magazine: “I have always believed that any society cannot progress unless its women progress – and that the women in any society cannot progress unless they are educated. This scheme is a small step in that direction.”

Since International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, this article from Ms. Magazine is an important step in seeing the power of small steps to make a difference.

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