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Why an Indian City Awarded Free Lifetime Education to One Baby Girl

The birth of any child, in most circumstances, should be reason for celebration. But in India, where entrenched cultural norms continue to hold back women and girls, the birth of a girl child can sometimes be viewed as a curse and not a blessing. 

In the city of Bengaluru, city officials are trying to change this attitude. In an effort to make the birth of a girl child less of a “burden” on poor mothers, the city announced it would give a free education through college to the first girl child born in the new year, the Indo-Asian News Service reports.  

The daughter of Pushpa and Gopi M will be the lucky recipient of the surplus interest payments generated on a 5 lakh (or $7,500) investment by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, a municipal development corporation, which will be used to fund her education, according to the report. 

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“We are very grateful to the civic authorities for this scheme and helping us with our child's education," the father, Gopi, said, according to IANS. 

Bengaluru’s mayor, R Sampath Raj, said that the investment fund was started in an effort to help change poor families’ attitudes toward girls’ education. 

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“Pregnant women, who go to civic hospitals for delivery, are generally from poor families and unfortunately think a girl child is a burden to bring her up," he said. 

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Read More: Periods Are a Pain — But They Shouldn’t Stop a Girl’s Education in India

In India, girls are aborted or killed in childhood more often than their male counterparts, according to the advocacy organization Children’s Rights and You (CRY). In the first four years of life, girls have a 61% higher mortality rate than boys, according to the National Family Health Survey. 

They also have limited educational opportunities compared to boys. While enrollment of males and females in primary school is roughly equal, the Atlantic reports that just two in five college students are women. 

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In terms of overall literacy, men are still a ways ahead of women — although women succeeded at shrinking the gap between 2001 and 2011. Countrywide, about 82% of men were literate in 2011, in comparison with 65% of women. 

In Bengaluru, the parents of 2018’s first girl child have big dreams for their infant daughter. 

“We hope our girl gets good education. We dream to see her become a politician one day,” her father told IANS.