The Child Brides: Send Them to School instead

 
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A school dropout, Suhani was confined at home
A school dropout, Suhani was confined at home

Suhani* (12), used to go to school until a few years ago. Unfortunately, Suhani struggled with making progress in reading and writing and had no way of getting support to improve her learning. Her parents rationalized that she wasn’t gaining much and so they stopped Suhani’s schooling. Suhani was then confined to cooking, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of her younger siblings at home.

Narayan Lal Sarel and Team Balika Manju (Educate Girls’ field coordinator and community volunteer respectively) went door-to-door within Suhani’s village in the Jalore district of rural Rajasthan and identified Suhani as an out-of-school girl.

They spoke to numerous families, including Suhani’s, urging them to educate their daughters. Suhani’s parents were convinced that she couldn’t really benefit much from school. Excelling at household chores would be far more advantageous. After all, serving her husband and his family was her sole destiny. What was the point of investing in her education? The entire community shared this way of thinking.

Suhani says, “When Narayan ji spoke to my parents it had been 3 years since I dropped out of school. I did not know the importance of or feel the need for education. How could I? Most of the girls in my village were working at home, like I was, or were already married. It wasn’t odd. I didn’t know there was something else I should or could be doing.”

Many villagers were not always open to listening when approached individually. Narayan and Manju conducted community meetings in the village and spoke in length about the importance and benefits of education and how girls could contribute to the development of their community if given equal opportunities.

People weren’t comfortable with sending their adolescent daughters to school. Often, afraid that they could “get out of hand”, which would be detrimental as they were approaching marriageable age.

The villagers were then told about Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV), the free-of-cost residential government secondary school for girls (Class 6 to 8). Girls from many adjoining villages would be studying there, the teaching and administration staff would be all-female and since the teachers were residents, after-class coaching for students could be provided.

Manju took Suhani’s mother to the school, showed her the classrooms, lodging, kitchen and playground. She was introduced to the teachers and principal and was shown how Educate Girls used creative learning and teaching (CLT) techniques to improve quality of education. Suhani’s parents finally agreed that studying at the KGBV would be good for her.

Today, Suhani and her younger sister are both in school. Suhani took a bridge course to equip her with the basic learning levels needed and was entered in Class 6. She also receives extra help when she needs it. Narayan and Manju visit the school periodically and conduct Bal Sabha (Girls’ Council) sessions, engaging the members in activity-based games that can develop essential life skills.

On a recent field visit some Educate Girls’ staff members from Mumbai met Suhani as well. She shared, “Now I have understood that it is education and not just household work that will equip me better for my development. Education is about more than just textbook learning. It gives me the freedom of choice. I’m not sure yet what I aspire to be, but one thing is clear. I want to study for as long as I can!”

*Name changed to protect the identity of the minor.

Educate Girls works at community level to identify, enrol and retain out-of-school girls like Suhani, while also improving the quality of learning by using creative learning and teaching methodologies in school. We educate girls and give them better life chances. This would not be possible without the support of donors just like you! For this, we sincerely thank you on behalf of all girls that got back to school!

You can donate on and share the link to our project page: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5054/educate-girls/

Busy with house chores, sibling care, cattle, etc.
Busy with house chores, sibling care, cattle, etc.
Educate Girls spoke to Suhani
Educate Girls spoke to Suhani's family & community
Now, Suhani is enrolled in school!
Now, Suhani is enrolled in school!
Suhani learns better in a creative classroom
Suhani learns better in a creative classroom
Educate Girls further supports Suhani & her peers
Educate Girls further supports Suhani & her peers

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Manju* is 11. Her days were spent in cooking for her family and undertaking domestic chores, craving to go to school, until her path crossed Educate Girls! Now she has leadership on her mind!

 

Manju lives in a small village in the tribal belt of Rajasthan. Her father is a stonemason. Manju is the youngest among 5 siblings. Her elder sister was married off at an early age and had never been to school. While Manju was busy cooking at home for her family, she used to watch the children in her village march to school every morning with longing.

In 2014, Educate Girls had organized a Gram Shiksha Sabha (village meet) in Manju’s village. The purpose of this meeting was to inform the community about the importance of girls’ education and to try and better understand what was preventing the parents in the village from sending their daughters to school. Kailash Kumar, a Field Coordinator working with Educate Girls, gathered basic information about girls who were not in school. Manju was one of them.

Kailash visited Manju’s home, where her parents strongly objected to sending her to school as she contributed significantly to all domestic chores like cooking, fetching water, cleaning and taking the goats for grazing. Her parents were not ready to discuss the matter and practically begged Kailash to leave.

Notwithstanding, Kailash made repeated visits to Manju’s home, getting her parents to see that his intentions were genuine. He explained to them how Manju would benefit from education, how she would be better equipped for her future, to socially and economically contribute to her family and community. After persistent and numerous interactions, Manju’s parents confided in Kailash that the major reason they were unable to send Manju to school was their regular migration to nearby towns in search of contractual labour jobs. Having understood their constraints, Kailash informed them, in detail, about the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya (KGBV), which is a government-run residential school for girls.

Manju’s parents finally agreed to send her to KGBV, on condition that some more girls from their village enroll in the same school. Kailash’s efforts eventually bore fruit and two more girls, along with Manju, were enrolled.

Today, Manju is happy to be in school and learning well. When asked about her ambition, she assertively replied, “I want to be a Sarpanch (Head of Local Village Government). If I can stop child marriage, girls like my sister won’t have to give up studying. I want to work for my entire village, not just for the girls. I’m so grateful to Educate Girls because now I have a chance to make my dream a reality”.

*Name changed to protect the identity of the minor.

 

Thousands of girls are not attending school in Rajasthan, one of the Indian states with high gender-disparity in education. At the root of this phenomenon lieswidespread discrimination against women and patriarchal views on gender roles. Girls are often seen as a liability and are bereft of receiving equal opportunities.

Educate Girls’ endeavors to identify each and every out-of-school girl, gain the families’ trust and find solutions together to get them to school. We also advocate the cause of girls’ education and raise awareness amongst the whole community.

The generosity of donors just like you, has enabled Educate Girls to enroll over 80,000 girls living in underserved communities in Rajasthan and presented them a better chance at the life they deserve. For this, we whole-heartedly thank you!

Learn more about Educate Girl’s impact through our website!

You can donate on: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5054/educate-girls/

 DON’T FORGET - the next Bonus Day is on July 15, where Global Giving will match donations 50%. Your partnership is valued.

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Kavita with her sisters
Kavita with her sisters

*Kavita is 12 and belongs to a small village located in the district of Ajmer in Rajasthan, India. Her family comprises her parents, an elder sister, two younger sisters and two younger brothers. Their life has never been a cakewalk! Kavita’s parents are uneducated. Her father has been bedridden because of a prolonged ailment. With lack of work opportunities and so many mouths to feed, the family’s economic condition has not been ideal. To add to Kavita’s plight, she was married off and became a child-bride five years ago. In order to curb the expenses, Kavita’s marriage was held during an event when the community had gathered for an altogether different occasion.

It is common in Kavita’s community to get their daughters married at a young age. The young girls have no say in when and who they wish to marry. The parents of the girl are relieved by early marriages as they can save on having to pay for heftier dowries later on (the amount of dowry expected is significantly more for an older, educated and employed boy).

Three years ago when her father was rendered completely unfit for work, the burden of taking care of the family fell on Kavita and her elder sister. Her uncle helped take care of some expensive medical bills as and when he could, but every other expense had to be met. Her sister found work as a laborer in a factory and took up some other odd jobs that provided daily wages. Kavita’s mother attended to her husband, took care of the younger children and did other chores like going to collect wood for the stove, getting water etc. Kavita was compelled to drop out of school because of the increased household responsibilities and taking care of her younger siblings. The local school was 3 km away which made it difficult for the younger sisters to go to school.

An Educate Girls Field Coordinator, Dharmendra, got to know about Kavita through a Child Tracking Survey list. As a part of Educate Girls’ door-to-door survey, Dharmendra visited Kavita’s house to be able to assess her situation and see how best to bring her back to school. Kavita’s mother explained their domestic and economic conditions and expressed her concerns over the buying of books and uniforms and Kavita’s involvement in household chores. Dharmendra told Kavita’s mother that under the Government of India’s Right to Education (RTE) Act, elementary education in India is free and compulsory for all children. There is no direct or indirect cost to be borne by the child or the parents to obtain elementary education. Dharmendra also spoke about the benefits of educating girls and why it was necessary to get them enrolled in school. Kavita was delighted at the prospect of being able to resume her studies and get the opportunity to learn with other students again.

However, her parents were apprehensive and it took Dharmendra’s repeated visits and the involvement of school administration and village elders to finally motivate Kavita’s parents to give their consent. Dharmendra spoke to the school principal about arranging for text books and uniforms. Kavita was re-enrolled into Class 4 while her sisters were put in Class 3 and Class 1.

Today, Kavita is in school and learning well. She still contributes to house work, but tries her best to not let it hinder her attendance at school. She is happy that her younger sisters get to study as well. She sets aside time at home to teach her elder sister all that she is learning at school. She wants her elder sister to be able to pursue distance education.

More importantly, with advice from Educate Girls’ Team Balika (community volunteer) member in their village, Kavita’s parents have agreed to send Kavita to her husband’s home only after she has turned 18. Kavita’s husband is also studying and has been supportive of her dream of pursuing higher education in the future. Kavita says, “My sisters and I owe this second chance to Educate Girls. The day Dharmendra knocked on our door, we did not just open our door to him. We opened the door to a better present and an even better future!

Kavita is one of the 80,000 out-of-school girls who have been enrolled by Educate Girls and our Team Balika over the last 7 years. An educated girl will not only earn a higher income and benefit from better health; she will also get married later and have fewer, healthier and better educated children. Girls’ education is therefore a crucial trigger for economic and social development.

Educate Girls constantly strives to increase enrollment and retention at schools for the most marginalized girls and improve learning outcomes of all children. We have reached over 1.1 million beneficiaries in rural Rajasthan in 2014 alone.

Help us make a difference and donate now on Global Giving as we strive to improve access and quality of education for around 4 million children living in underserved communities in India by 2018.

DONATE ON: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5054/educate-girls/

Thank you for your generous support!

*Name changed to protect the identity of the child

 

Set the Bonus Day on your agenda!

On March 18, 30% of every donation made on Global Giving by credit card, PayPal, or a Global Giving official gift card will be matched. For instance, if you decide to donate $100, Global Giving will match your donation with a $30 bonus and Educate girls will receive $130. Hurry and make a donation soon to significantly increase your impact, since the donations are matched ONLY until funds last.

Donations can be matched from 9.00 am to 11.59 pm EDT - http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html.

On behalf of all the girls supported by Educate Girls - Thank You!

Sunita* is the oldest of four siblings.  When she was young she and her family lived in town.  She attended school daily and was very content. However, things changed when her father lost his job.  He tried to find more work, but was unsuccessful, and her mother had a disability, which meant she could not work. When their savings ran out, they were forced to leave and go back to their small village. Her father worked as a laborer on a nearby farm, but made a menial salary.  Some of their extended family tried to help, but eventually, in addition to helping with house work, Sunita had to start making and selling brooms to help make more money. She did not go to school.

After her 12th birthday, everyone became concerned with getting her married, as was the practice in her village.  However, because of her family's status and the fact that they would not be able to provide a dowry, finding a suitable match was difficult.  Many inappropriate matches were being suggested that Sunita knew wouldn’t be good for her.  One day she found out from a relative that her family had finalized a match without her knowledge. The man was much older than her, was a widower, and had two children around her age. 

Sunita thought it was a miracle when Sharda appeared at her doorstep.  Sharda was an Educate Girls Team Balika member. She had found out that Sunita was out of school and spoke to her family about the importance of education and the harmful effects of child marriage. At first her parents didn’t listen and continued to plan Sunita's wedding.  But Sharda set up a meeting with Sunita's parents and the village leader where they convinced them that it was in Sunita's best interest to go to school and not be married. Sunita still makes and sells brooms to help her family, but only when she is not studying. Because of Educate Girls, she is in school and not a child bride!

Through the efforts of our Team Balika, over 80,000 out-of-school girls have been enrolled in school.  While many families see early marriage as the norm, our staff and Team Balika work tirelessly to get families to prioritize girls' education. We believe that if more girls are educated now, they will have the potential to enter the formal economy, gain employment and lift their families out of poverty in the future.  Every donation makes a difference to many more lives like Sunita's and brings us closer to achieving our goal of reaching 4 million children in underserved communities by 2018.

Donate now:  http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5054/educate-girls/

Your support is priceless and appreciated! Thank You!

*name changed to protect the identity of the child.

Padma1
Padma1

My name is Padma. I’m 21 years old and live in a small village in Pali District, Rajasthan, India. My journey till now, even during these young years, has been filled with harsh realities – things I never expected could happen to me.

When I was in the 8th grade, my parents got me married along with my elder brothers and sisters. This custom of getting brothers and sisters mass married is common in my region to cut down on wedding costs. While boys are often given the freedom to continue studying after marriage, girls are expected to stay home. My father told my in-laws that he wouldn’t send me to their house for at least a year after the marriage, so I could at least finish the school year. Shortly though, my in-laws started pressuring my father to send me to their home and finally my father relented.

At the beginning my new family members were fine and I was learning to adjust in my new home, but eventually I started experiencing a change in the way I was being treated. Fights were picked on the smallest and silliest of things and household chores were increasingly being heaped on me. I was sent alone to the jungle daily in order to collect wood to be made into charcoal and sold. I had to use that same wood for cooking each night. Soon I was being regularly abused and beaten. My husband was fed up with having me around; he saw me as more of a nuisance than a wife. He threatened to leave home or commit suicide if I continued to stay with him and so my father-in-law begged me to leave.

Believing that I would be taking a step to make my in-laws happy, I left and returned to my parent’s home. I didn’t tell my parents of my situation or that I couldn’t go back to my husband. I thought I finally had a few moments of peace but this calm didn’t last long. Neighbors and other members of the community had started questioning my whereabouts. Rumors spread that I had run away. Having a runaway daughter-in-law made my father-in-law appear weak and unable to control his household. A few days after I had left, he came to my home with a few others and beat me up. They also beat up my mother and younger brother. Though they did not want me to return, attacking my family and me was punishment for bringing shame to the family. My father vowed to never let me return to their home. That’s when I knew I had the opportunity to start fresh. I got back to my studies, completed both my 10th and 12th standards and pursued a Bachelor of Education degree. I’m grateful for the support of my parents and their good decision to not forcibly send me back to my husband. I know many girls don’t get this support and lead miserable lives.

I was approached by an Educate Girls Field Coordinator to become a Team Balika. Since I was among the most educated in the community, they thought I would be a good fit. I went to a recruitment meeting and learned about the opportunity to make a difference in my community, and to help girls who may not otherwise have the opportunities that I had. I saw Team Balika as an opportunity to help my community to realize the downside to marrying girls young, and the importance of education and teaching a girl her rights. Today, it’s been a year since I’ve become a Team Balika and I’ve learned so much. I have the confidence that I can achieve anything I put my heart to and my sincere desire is that no one has to suffer what I did. Perhaps if I had been more educated and my parents too understood all our rights, I wouldn’t have taken the abuse as I did. As a Team Balika I find myself in a position of influence and an agent of change. I have become more confident and am more informed of my rights. As I speak to students, parents and teachers I know I am reaching my community in a way that will shape our future for good. Educate Girls has had a profound effect on me, and I am happy that I can be a part of such a wonderful organization!

Team Balika is comprised of over 5000 community volunteers who work as champions for girls’ education and catalysts for school reform in the worst gender-gap districts of Rajasthan. They boost enrollment, retention and learning outcomes for all students and have so far helped to enroll over 70,000 out-of-school girls in school. Team Balika is trained in community mobilization & outreach, CLT techniques, and leadership. They are often between the ages of 16-25 and are among the most educated members of their communities.

Your donation to Educate Girls helps us to keep impacting the lives of not only the girls we enroll in school, but also of the many volunteers, staff, and community members who work tirelessly to further the cause of girl child education in India. Please donate now on Global Giving to help our team send more girls back to school.

http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5054/educate-girls/

Thank you for your support!



Padma with Students in Rajasthan
Padma with Students in Rajasthan

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Organization

Educate Girls

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
http://www.educategirls.in

Project Leader

Safeena Husain

Executive Director
Mumbai, MH India

Where is this project located?

Map of The Child Brides: Send Them to School instead