School girls gather around a hand pump to wash their food plates in Lalgarh. (Source: Bloomberg Media Source)

Why Mumbai Is The Best City For Teenage Girls In India

India’s financial capital Mumbai is the best city for the well-being of teenage girls, according to a survey.

The survey—which was based on interviews with 74,000 teenage girls across the country—was conducted by Nanhi Kali, a joint project by the Naandi Foundation, a non-profit for the education of women, and KC Mahindra Education Trust.

The survey measured the well-being of the girls on nine parameters that had equal weightage. Mumbai, among 600 districts, performed better than the others while Kerala, among the 30 surveyed states, emerged as the best state for the welfare of adolescent girls.

The parameters considered the Teen Age Girls Index were:

  • Enrollment in educational institution.
  • Never married.
  • No open defecation.
  • Hygienic menstrual protection.
  • Normal haemoglobin levels.
  • Normal body mass index.
  • Five or more new-age skills such as the ability to make or receive calls through a mobile phone; filling forms in English or local language; using social media; writing a document in English on a computer; asking a male stranger for directions/help; travelling alone on a journey longer than four hours; living alone; and filing complaint at a police station
  • Owning a mobile phone.
  • Age-appropriate schooling, which meant that respondents were in class 1 when they were six years old.

Kolkata and Bengaluru were ranked second and third among cities, while Mizoram and Sikkim tracked Kerala.

On the education front, the survey found that:

  • Nearly 81 percent adolescent girls were in school of which 70 percent wished to pursue higher studies.
  • Around 74 percent wished to work and had a specific career in mind.
  • More than 70 percent girls didn’t wish to get married before 21 years, while 96 percent were unmarried.

“When I try to find out and talk to our executives on why we don’t have more women climbing the corporate ladder, the first answer is there isn’t a large enough pool of educated women that we can take on,” Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., told reporters at the launch of the report. “One of the nice things about this report is that it’s going to blow that (theory) out of the water.”

“That’s why we’re funding the report. People have got to know that there are women with aspirations, and you have no excuses not to tap into that pool anymore,” Mahindra said.

The survey, one of the first of its kind in India, came in the backdrop of low female participation in the labour force, which dropped from 34.8 percent in 1993 to 23.7 percent in 2015, according to data from Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Participation of Indian women in the workforce is also one of the lowest globally, as the Global Gender Report 2015 ranked it 136 among 145 countries on the metric.

While girls did well on the education front, health remained a concern as every second girl in the country was found to be anaemic and with a low body mass index. About two in every five teenagers defecated in the open and 46 percent used unhygienic materials during menstruation, largely because they couldn’t afford sanitary napkins. “If a girl isn’t healthy, if she isn’t getting nutritious food, can her education be complete?” Mahindra asked.