Below is a story from our Girls’ Education program in India, featuring a special Life Skills session organized for girls in the program in Delhi. Thanks to generous donors like you, Room to Read is able to provide these unique, valuable experiences to girls who otherwise may not have had these opportunities.
Since the start of this project, GlobalGiving donors have raised over $26,000 for Girls’ Education in India. We are so grateful to supporters like you who make this work possible. Thank you!
Despite a light drizzle, the air of excitement was palpable as 30 girls from Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program in Delhi arrived at a special life skills session. Anxious to begin the day’s activities, the girls lined up neatly to meet their mentors for the day—female drivers employed by Sakha Cab Company.
Today, the eager young students would learn the rules of the road, basic vehicle maintenance and, of course, how to drive. In large cities like New Delhi, which can be unsafe for women, the ability to drive is more than just a practical mode of transportation—it is a key to independence.
For the special life skills session, Room to Read India partnered with Sakha, a social enterprise that provides employment opportunities to women as drivers for other women, corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They also provide a women’s taxi service throughout Delhi that will eventually be owned by the female drivers themselves.
Sakha’s professional drivers were equally excited to work with our Girls’ Education program participants, and began the day with a lively question and answer session in which they candidly shared the individual challenges they had faced in striving to achieve their career aspirations, and how they overcame them. “I used to be very shy, but learning to drive has given me so much confidence—I am a different person now,” shared Chandni, a 22-year-old Sakha employee.
Next up was an overview of vehicle parts and care as well as a test ride courtesy of the female drivers. Squeals of joy could be heard all around!
It wasn’t only the girls, though, that learned something. They brought with them some of Room to Read’s local-language books to share with the women they met, including one that teaches traffic regulations to children. “One of the biggest regrets that I have is that I couldn’t finish my education,” said Chandni to the girls. “Room to Read has given you the wonderful opportunity to complete your education, so make use of it!”
Name: Neha Age: 13Region: Chauli, Jharkhand
Neha is a 7th grade student at High School Chauli. Prior to this year, Neha was a problematic student – starting fights in her classes and making rude comments about the other children. When teachers and classmates would try and correct Neha or help her to figure out a mistake on a math or English assignment, Neha would fly into a rage and often leave the classroom. In one instance, in her Home Science lab, she abused her lab partners so much that they left the classroom out of fear of being around the young girl. Then one day a student alerted a Social Mobilizer - a female mentor who provides support to girls in the program - about Neha’s behavior, explaining that Neha made students afraid to come to school and distracted them during the school day. When the Social Mobilizer spoke to Neha, she seemed defensive and unable to really take responsibility for her actions and her behavior.
Soon after this conversation, our team visited Neha’s home and spoke to the girl and her mother about Neha’s outbursts in the classroom and the ways in which her comments were hurting other students in her class. The Social Mobilizer invited Neha’s mother to attend life skills workshops with her daughter where our team led the two women in role playing exercises to highlight the impact of Neha’s current behavior. After one of these workshops, Neha broke down crying and explained that she suffers from a chronic illness and that most of her behavior is fueled by the pain and discomfort she is in. Upon hearing this news, our team worked with Neha’s mother to figure out how to address this underlying cause of Neha’s behavior, addressing both the physical and emotional needs.
Now in Grade 7, Neha’s behavior has improved dramatically and her classmates enjoy being around her. When she does act out, Neha takes responsibility for her actions and apologizes almost immediately. Neha is even helping younger students with their coursework, tutoring these children and encouraging them to continue with their studies. Our team is extremely proud of Neha’s progress, and we look forward to tracking her continued achievements.
This report features Girls’ Education program student Shabnam, an 11th grade student who lives in Rajasthan, India. Shabnam was interviewed for our most recent Girls’ Education yearbook. You can view the whole yearbook here. The stories in this yearbook are done in an interview style, and girls are interviewed by someone from their community. For this story, Shabnam was interviewed by Noor Mohammed, Founder of the Alwar Mewat Institute for Education and Development (AMIED). This story is a great example of the impact that the Girls' Education program has on both its participants and their communities.
In the Mewat region of India, where Shabnam lives, the female literacy rate is only 6 percent. Most girls in Mewat do not receive a formal education and are expected instead to remain at home—looking after siblings or their own children. Shabnam made history in 2011 when she became the first girl in her village to graduate from 10th grade.
She joined school after completing an intensive bridge course set up by Room to Read and our local partner organization, AMIED, and she has been thriving ever since.
Noor Mohammed: How would you describe the village you grew up in?
Shabnam: In Mewat, education is hardly given any importance. Girls are not allowed to study at all. The general mindset of the community is that girls have to look after household affairs and bear children; school is never prioritized. At least, not until you and AMIED started working here—visiting our homes and talking to the elders in the community.
NM: So tell me, how have things changed now?
Shabnam: Well, we definitely have more girls coming to school. Also, no one in the community ever wanted to talk to our didis (social mobilizers). Now they are treated with great respect.
NM: What about your own family? Do they support your education?
Shabnam: My parents work on the farm all day and there are six children in my family— three boys and three girls, so there is a lot of housework to keep me busy in addition to my studies. I have to clean the house, cook, look after my siblings and help my mother feed the buffaloes in the field.
My mother has supported my education the most. Neighbors have told her that letting me go to a co-educational school and interact with boys is against the conventions of Islam, but she always supports me. During my 10th grade final exams, my father was completely opposed to letting me travel the 20 km (12.4 mi) to the exam center. He said I needed to finish my household responsibilities first, and my brothers refused to help out on the farm if he continued to allow me to study. It was very difficult to negotiate with them and explain how life changing these exams could be for me. The results would determine my admission into engineering college, and I had imagined a new future for myself—one where I would earn money, have a job and be able to take care of myself. It has taken many years to convince my father, but slowly he has started to come around.
NM: Now that you are in the engineering college, what is a typical day like for you? Has anything changed?
Shabnam: The biggest change is that I livealone in a one-bedroom apartment. I wakeup, cook food for the day and wash myclothes. Then I study for an hour and leavefor my engineering classes, which are aboutan hour’s walk from home.Classes end at 3:30 p.m., and I usuallystop by the market on my way home tobuy vegetables. Then I finish householdchores and try to study before work. I don’tget a chance to see my parents very oftenbecause the village is far away.
NM: You are so independent. Are you scared of anything in the future?
Shabnam: There is no fear. A lot of girls didn’t get an education before, but now things are changing, and girls have an opportunity to prove themselves. I do think sometimes about what would happen if I were not able to study. You know, my family sacrifices a lot to pay the rent for my apartment. I just pray that I am able to finish my education. I have this daydream of being in an office, sitting in front of a computer!
NM: So what exactly would you say education means to you?
Shabnam: Education is the tool through which I can become independent in my life—both financially and emotionally. Through education, I can judge right from wrong. It helps me solve problems, express my opinions and stand up to my brothers and father. I can tell them, “look at what I am capable of achieving!”
NM: What are your plans after graduation? More school? Work? Marriage?
Shabnam: I will get my bachelor’s degree in technology and become an engineer. After school, I will pursue a government job so that I can help build facilities and infrastructure in my village. I know a lot of girls look up to me for inspiration now, so I feel I have a responsibility to succeed in life and help them. When I am an engineer, people in the community will be convinced that girls can study and have a right to build a future for themselves.
During the reporting period, the Girls' Education program team continued implementing the activities and program components reported on in our previous GlobalGiving reports. In this report, we want to deeply thank Global Giving donors for your support and generosity by sharing a story from the field. This story features B., a Girls' Education program participant in India.
For years, B. Beemamma wanted to become an officer with the Indian Police Services, but her father, a daily wage laborer, had decided she would get married. When B. was 11 years old and in the 6th grade, we launched our Girls’ Education Program at Zilla Parishad High School, her school in Mushrifa village.
From the beginning, our field team began implementing GEP activities such as providing material support (school fees, uniforms, notebooks, etc.), remedial education, tutoring, medical camps and meetings for parents and the community. The social mobilizer who looks after the GEP girls in Mushrifa got to know B. and the challenges she faced. She made home visits, met her parents and encouraged them to participate in the quarterly parents’ meetings. As a result, B.’s parents have attended every one of these meetings which are a vital component of our program. It is during these meetings that parents learn about the importance of girls’ education, the adverse effects of child marriages, and the impact of the program on girls in their village.
As B. thrived in her studies, actively participating in the science and math fairs, life skills workshops, and other competitions, her parents truly began understanding their daughter’s interest and promising future—so much so that B.’s father decided to encourage her to continue her education. Her older brother, a university student, helps with her studies and serves as one of B.’s greatest inspirations. She is now one of the top students in her 8th grade class and, very recently, with the encouragement and support of our field team, won first prize in a singing competition.
Your support and generosity is helping provide resources and opportunities to girls just like B. Thank you!
Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program in India had an exciting past few months. Girls in the program participated in field trips to New Delhi Metro Museum, Nehru Planetarium, Dolls Museum and National Bal Bhawan (a state-sponsored center featuring an exhaustive array of recreational learning activities), all of which exposed the girls to locales quite different from their own neighborhoods. At The Lady Irwin College, New Delhi University, they learned about consumer rights, sexual harassment, ovarian and breast cancers, food science and nutrition. A particularly noteworthy event was a meeting with New Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit. During this coveted time with the Chief Minister, the girls shared their views about girls’ education in India and also their personal experiences with our Girls’ Education program.
Over the last 3 months, community and parental co-investment remained a strong focus in the program. The GEP team in India hosted several parents’ meetings, which covered content such as family-centered challenges to girls’ education and promoting attendance for tutoring. Parents also received examination criteria and benchmark overviews to further inform them of the details and progress of their daughters’ educations. Other workshops raised awareness about HIV/AIDS, gender-based discrimination, domestic violence and holistic female empowerment (educational, economic and spiritual).
Looking forward, our teams anticipate facilitating regular tutoring sessions in math, science, business, remedial tutoring, and life skills workshops that cover adolescence, reproductive health and career plans. We are also excited to begin personalized venture enterprise plans for girls (where they brainstorm and devise business plans), development camps, and more enriching field trips and alumnae meetings.
Thanks to your investments in our work, the Girls’ Education program in India has raised $1450 – the equivalent of a year of education for almost 6 girl or 29 bicycles for girl scholars. With your continued support, we will be able to continue providing girls in India with the educational tools and support they need; we look forward to updating you on our project activities in the next report.
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