Publication - Project Report
Several existing studies have documented that women are severely under-represented in all socio-economic spheres in India. Efforts have been made to increase women’s participation in various domains. A fairly recent sub-national endeavour, which is the focus of the current study, is the cycle programme initiated by the Bihar government; this is aimed at encouraging girls to continue attending high school by providing them with bicycles.
There are many reasons as to why girls are not able to attend school. First, there are restrictions imposed on the movement of women and the access they have to the outside world; often “cultural considerations” are invoked in justifying such restrictions. Another important factor is the actual access to a secondary school. In a developing country like India, high schools are fewer and a larger distance away in comparison to those in an average developed country. This, coupled with the fact that it is often unsafe for women to travel unaccompanied for long distances, deters otherwise willing parents from sending their daughters to school.
Social norms take time to change and are often difficult to influence directly. However, access to schools can be effectively tackled by concerted policy. The direct way to improve school enrolment would be to set up more schools so that girls do not have to go very far from home. This, coupled with efforts to improve the rule of law, would encourage reluctant parents to send their daughters to school. There are several infrastructural hurdles, however, to such schemes. Therefore an initiative like the cycle programme removes some of the bottlenecks for girls’ enrolment in secondary school quickly without requiring any additional investment in infrastructure.
This project aimed to investigate how empowerment of girls through this programme may improve earnings and living conditions via the influence on aspirations as they filter into the society at the local level. We wanted to investigate under what conditions better opportunities may lead to more gender equality.
Given the success of the cycle programme to increase enrolment to secondary school, we followed up on the initial beneficiaries to assess the long-term impacts of the scheme. This provided a fuller assessment of the benefits of the scheme and would be useful if the scheme was to be implemented in other states in India or in other developing countries.
We studied the long term impacts of a one-time in-kind transfer on women’s empowerment. We found that:
The cycles have empowered the girls. Yet, they lack further means and opportunities to become even more independent. This may require increased efforts by the state and others towards job creation.
We collected data from the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand.