Saturday, June 22, 2024

Rewarding hope

Perching atop the academic tree is now an annual manoeuvre Nagaland girls can evidently pull off wearing blindfolds. If that comes across as hyperbole, we offer no apology. On May 25, the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) declared the HSLC and HSSLC exam results. Cue: a reprise of a familiar trend repeated year after year. Yet again, the girls outperformed the boys in the HSLC exam ~ not just in terms of absolute numbers and pass percentage but also in the number of entries in the Toppers’ list. As per data released by the NBSE, a total of 9,350 girls emerged successful as compared to 7,780 boys who cleared the HSLC exam. The respective pass percentages stood at 71.03% and 69.47%. The number of entries in the Top 20 list was a story in itself: 99 students made it to the list, out of which 33 were boys and the girls doubled it with 66 entries. This is not another exercise in boy-bashing come the Board exam results. But these are bare facts. The NBSE results were preceded by the Union Public Service Commission’s announcement of Civil Services Exam results. There too, the top three ranks went to women. This is the second year in a row that the top three slots have gone to women. The Top 25 list of successful candidates consisted of 14 women and 11 men, with diverse educational backgrounds ranging from engineering to humanities, medical science and commerce. Among the top 25 candidates recommended this year, 14 were women and 11 men. In fact, women have taken up 12 of the top 20 slots. This all-India competition saw 4 successful candidates from Nagaland ~ 3 women and 1 man. These are remarkable stories in so many ways. More importantly, perhaps, these are living, thriving reminders of how women ~ Naga women and women of all identities ~ are not only breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes every day but also acing their fields. Even in the overall performance of UPSC Civil Services Exam 2022, it has been pointed out that women have shown remarkable improvement. Out of the total 933 candidates recommended for appointment to various elite services like IAS and IPS, 320 or 34.2% are women. This is more than a significant jump from the 25.8% share of women among the recommended candidates based on CSE 2021, 28.5% in 2020, 23.8% in 2019 and 23.9% in 2018 and even the exams held earlier. All of these numbers and gleanings are in their own ways indicative of the growing empowerment of women in India. There is always more to do and achieve, of course. But these achievements not only celebrate individual success but also reflect a transformative shift in societies, including the Naga. If only we choose to see them. The year-by-year increase in the number of girls excelling in, and topping, academic as well as competitive exams, highlights the need to break traditional stereotypes and embrace diversity in governance too. They challenge longstanding gender norms and defy societal expectations. Crucially, it signifies that intellect, determination and hard work are not confined to any specific gender. These girls, these women are shattering barriers and showing that they are capable of competing on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Such achievements inspire countless others, instilling a sense of confidence and ambition among girls. These inspiring stories serve as a powerful motivation, illustrating that dedication and perseverance can lead to ground-breaking achievements. Needless to say, the presence of more women in civil services and administrative apparatus brings diverse perspectives to policy-making and governance. Each individual, regardless of gender, brings unique experiences and insights that contribute to a more inclusive decision-making process. Their continued success should not be reduced to an annual reminder we fail to heed to. Because what their successes represent is our unceasing hope for a society that values, prioritises and embraces differences and diversity.