Empowering Poor Girls in India with life skills

 
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At Reach Global we have long recognized the tremendous value of savings groups as a platform to provide education to women and girls. An estimated 100 million women gather weekly in these groups, which in India are known as "self-help groups." This International Women's Day we want to introduce you to one of the many powerful women who are a part of this movement.  

In her village in Bihar, India, 41-year-old Lalita Devi strives to make education for women happen every day. As secretary of her local self-help group, she's a respected community resource, working to empower the women around her by raising their awareness of crucial health and hygiene topics.

It wasn't always so. 
As a teenager, Lalita took the only path available to most poor women in her remote village: she left school young, married at 16, then gave birth to five children in a row. With little way to gain knowledge of health, nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene, she struggled to keep her children healthy and in school.

Then Lalita began participating in Reach life skills education. 
She gained new knowledge and discovered the power of education. The importance of handwashing; the symptoms of malnutrition and anemia; the prevention of common illnesses; sexual and reproductive health and rights--all can enable women to make smart choices for themselves and their families.

Once Lalita realized the power of that knowledge, she wanted to share it.
Now Lalita trains self-help group leaders in other villages to share the knowledge that has made such a difference in her life. It's a simple and powerful way to help herself and her community.

We know that investing in adolescent girls and women is both the right thing to do and smart for families, communities, and society. We thank you for your commitment to our work and invite you to continue supporting powerful women like Lalita by making a secure donation at the link below or at our website.

On behalf of the Reach Global team, thank you!

Sean

Reach Global has long recognized that savings groups represent the world’s single largest form of microfinance, encompassing an estimated 100 million women in India alone. Reach Global also recognized that savings groups in India, referred to as self-help groups, represent a tremendous platform to provide education. Leveraging this platform, Reach Global works closely with its local partner organization, Reach India, to support girls to manage money.

Reach education equips girls with new knowledge and practical skills to budget and save. The powerful combination of saving, knowledge, and skills prepares girls—the next generation of women—to cope with crises like the death of a breadwinner; manage life-cycle events like the cost of a funeral; and seize new economic opportunities like starting or expanding a microenterprise. These capabilities can literally define a girl’s future and that of succeeding generations.

Rigorous research confirms that combining saving and education in a group setting brings positive impacts. Additionally, combining services in the powerful existing phenomenon of self-help groups offers tremendous potential to support millions of women and girls—mothers and daughters—over time. Finally, training local organizations to facilitate the education leverages and strengthens the capabilities of local organizations.

The experience of one girl named Mohima illustrates the capacity of financial education to empower. Young Mohima walks down the main path of her village in rural Jharkhand State, along with two friends and a woman she affectionately calls Anwara Didi, or big sister. Anwara is a facilitator for a local community organization trained by Reach. Soon after joining her organization, Anwara became a mentor to Mohima and the other young women who participate in weekly Reach education sessions of their local self-help group.

In their group, Mohima, her mother, and 10 to 15 community peers join Anwara for lessons on family finance and mutual support—issues they would not otherwise be exposed to in their rural village. The use of songs, games and structured discussions accommodates different learning styles. The topics cover essential knowledge that equips both mothers and daughters to make smart decisions, such as saving for a goal, negotiating decisions with family members, or financing the expansion of a family microenterprise. The lessons present tangible solutions that can be applied right away, even before participants have completed all of the 7-8 weekly sessions of a given topic. The girls’ and mothers’ animated laughter reflects the fun and engaging nature of this learning. 

Following their weekly meetings, the girls talk about the knowledge they’ve gained and the importance of sharing it with peers and family members. Mohima reflects on what she’s learned in the group about saving money and using it wisely. Every week, the facilitator gives each girl two rupees, which she can use as she wishes. Mohima always spends one rupee on food and saves the other. She hopes that one day she'll have enough to start her own embroidery business. She says she also values being able to contribute to her family. “My savings is sometimes all the money there is to buy food. That makes me feel useful to my family.”

It's clear that others believe, as we do, that investing in adolescent girls and women is both the right thing to do and smart for families, communities and society. We thank you for your belief in our work and invite you to contribute to it again by making a donation at the link below or our website.

Sincerely,
Sean

Greetings.

More than half of all girls in India marry by the time they reach the legal marriage age of 18. In addition to the many adverse health outcomes associated with early marriage, early marriage limits girls’ education and economic opportunities. It literally defines their future and that of the next generation. That’s the intergenerational nature of poverty. And that's why we support girls and women.

Over the busy past few months, Reach Global has worked with our partner Reach India to identify new ways to support adolescent girls to make positive changes in their lives. When we began in 2007, we equipped girls with essential new knowledge and skills to address many of the daily challenges they face, such as understanding their bodies, eating nutritious food and saving for a goal.

We then expanded our support to help girls and young women meet more difficult challenges, such as negotiating when to marry and when to have their first child—fundamental decisions that have a huge bearing on a girls’ future health and well-being. These challenges are particularly difficult because “gatekeepers” in the family and community usually make these decisions for girls, based on longstanding values and beliefs. Supporting girls in these areas requires sensitive, tactful approaches attuned to local context and what girls can actually achieve.

We're now supporting girls, women and others in rural communities to hold local health care providers accountable for quality care that is sensitive to girls and women’s particular needs. For example, many rural health clinics have no female doctors or nurses. Many have no private area for girls to change. Many don’t provide girls the information and options they need to make good decisions about their reproductive health. We believe basic health care is a right, and we’re identifying ways to help girls and women recognize and pursue this right in communities across India.

This is not easy, but we’re engaging girls to help us design and evaluate Reach education, so we’re accountable to their needs and what we’re providing is as relevant as possible. We hope you’ll continue to help us in this work. As challenging as the circumstances are for girls, every day we see them make important new changes for themselves, their families and communities.

Sincerely,
Sean Kline
Executive Director

I have exciting news to share with you! This month, Reach Global joins forces with East Meets West, a respected international development organization that has brought water and sanitation, health and education solutions to poor families across Asia for over 25 years.

East Meets West’s sustainable, community-based programs have helped 5.9 million people in Asia improve their quality of life, and its results-based financing methods have attracted significant funding from both private institutions and multilateral organizations. I’m confident that our new affiliation with East Meets West will allow us to extend our reach to new countries and communities, and enhance our ability to innovate on behalf of poor families, particularly women and adolescent girls.

Key Accomplishments in 2013
This important step in Reach Global’s evolution caps a strong year of significant accomplishments, most notably:

In India, working with its longstanding local partner, Reach delivered education on health, livelihoods and family finance topics to 92,256 women and adolescent girls. Since 1997, Reach’s pioneering social franchise has delivered education to more than 1.4 million poor women and girls across 14 of the poorest states of India.

In Africa, under the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s YouthStart Program (funded by MasterCard Foundation), Reach supported microfinance institutions in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda to introduce new financial and education services for poor youth, especially adolescent girls. This program is projected to bring vital skills and knowledge to 200,000 young people.

2014 and Beyond
As our two organizations share expertise and resources, Reach Global is already positioned for exciting growth in 2014 and beyond. Reach Global’s nonformal education and training capabilities and East Meets West’s direct experience implementing in-country programs will enable the two organizations to achieve much more together than they would on their own.

Sustaining Our Commitment
Reach Global remains committed to its mission of equipping millions of very poor women and girls with the knowledge and skills to activate their most powerful asset—themselves.

We will continue to design life-changing education on health, livelihoods and family finance, and replicate its delivery in the world’s poorest communities. Reach has a wealth of experience integrating its education into a variety of programs for poor families, including health and microfinance programs. We look forward to bringing this expertise to new partnerships across the developing world.

Reach Global will also bring its expertise to formal education in poor communities, equipping schools to leverage new technologies, teachers with new capabilities, and vulnerable students with the educational support they need to succeed.

I promise to keep you updated as we pursue this exciting new direction with East Meets West. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Sincerely,
Sean Kline
Executive Director

Africa
Africa

Greetings,

Reach Global works closely with its local partner Reach India to monitor ways in which adolescent girls are adopting new knowledge, skills and practices after participating in Reach education. I've reported some of the exciting impacts we've seen in India among girls as a result the work you support. Given these impacts, we have looked for opportunities to apply our learning and expertise to support girls elsewhere while we continue work in India.

In May, for example, Reach Global traveled to Istanbul, Turkey for the International Summit of Child and Youth Finance. During the Summit, we trained the staffs of 10 African microfinance institutions on "Monitoring Financial and Non-Financial Outcomes for Youth.” This training was designed specifically to help institutions regularly measure how well they are supporting boys and girls to save, adopt positive money management practices and increase their economic security.

We've since followed up this training to provide on-site support to the staffs of these 10 institutions in their home countries across Africa. One of the institutions we support is PAMACAS in Senegal, which is providing youth a safe place to save and reminding them to save regularly for their future using text messages, such as the one below:

HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF YOUR FUTURE?

Set your savings goal!

Don't forget “little by little the bird makes its nest.”

Reach Global is excited to assist organizations like PAMECAS in Africa to support youth, especially adolescent girls, and to help them leverage technology like mobile phones, to do this in ways that are appropriate and effective. We’re also excited to be taking learning from Africa back to India to continue our work there supporting adolescent girls.

I invite you to make a donation at the link below or at our website to continue supporting this work on behalf of girls.

Thank you again!

India
India

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Organization

Reach Global

Oakland, CA, United States
http://www.reach-global.org

Project Leader

Sean Kline

Executive Director
Berkeley, CA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Empowering Poor Girls in India with life skills