The status of women in Nepali society is improving as is evident by the presence of 191 women among 575 elected members of the Constituent Assembly. As women get their rightful share in social and political spheres, educational opportunities for Nepali girls are bound to increase. The latest United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) report indicates as much. The primary school girl-boy ratio which was 83 to 100 in 2002 has leapfrogged to 96 to 100. But the sad fact is that long before they complete their schooling, many girls drop out. For instance, only eight percent of dalit girls enrolled in Grade 1 make it up to Grade 5. The figures are similar for other marginalised communities.
Education experts from 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region are in Kathmandu to work out ways to ensure that girls complete not only primary level but clear the secondary level of schooling too. Revision of school-level syllabuses to bring them in tune with the needs of all students, not just boys, and bridging the gender gap both at home and society are crucial. So is eliminating social and cultural barriers that discourage girls from attending school. It is shocking that many girls drop out on reaching menstrual age as schools are devoid of proper toilet facilities. Small changes can make a big difference. What is needed is political will and collective effort of all sectors of society to make it happen.