Seema* is a 16 year old girl from Pali, Rajasthan. She lost her father at the age of 11, a tragedy that people in her village blamed and mistreated her for, saying she was cursed. Seema was miserable. To add to her despair, she was married off to an abusive alcoholic who was twice her age. Eventually, he threw her out of the house. Seema's situation, though heart-breaking, is not unique. 68% of girls in Rajasthan are married before the legal age of 18. These girls often drop out of school and are subjected to work in homes where they are susceptible to abuse, adolescent pregnancy and often have no freedom or decision making power. 9 out of 26 ‘gender gap’ districts in India are in Rajasthan, where 40% of girls drop out of school before they reach 5th grade.
Seema was alone and living on the street when our Team Balika member, Sharda, found her. Our Team Balika, comprised of over 1500 community volunteers, are the champions of our cause. Sharda counseled Seema and helped her find hope in the midst of her struggles. With Sharda's help, Seema was enrolled in a government-funded residential school for girls where she went on to clear her 10th grade exams with flying colors. Today, Seema herself is a proud member of Team Balika. She works with Sharda to enroll out-of-school girls, support school teachers and conduct life skills education sessions. Seema’s ability to overcome her situation is an inspiration.
Our Team Balika members are crucial elements of the Educate Girls model. They go door-to-door to convince families to prioritize girls' education. They mobilize communities to form School Management Committees, giving community members a platform to assess schools, create school improvement plans and influence the local education system. Furthermore, Team Balika helps increase learning outcomes in children by working directly with teachers and headmasters to introduce creative learning techniques in classrooms. Their efforts on the ground are not only essential to our success as an organization, but rejuvenate government schools and create lasting impact on the lives of people in the communities they serve.
Through the efforts of Team Balika, Educate Girls has enrolled over 59,000 girls. The creative teaching techniques that they use to improve learning levels has benefited about 6,00,000 children. Our goal is to improve access and quality of education for around 4 million children living in underserved communities in India by 2018.
Please donate now on Global Giving to send more girls back to school.
Thank you for your support!
*Name changed to protect the identity of the child
A couple of months ago, we set up a drawing contest in the schools of Pali, in Rajasthan. Our staff asked students to draw their thoughts on education. Most drawings featured child labor and underage marriage.
One of the most striking drawings was done by 9-year-old Gauri. On the left she crayoned a boy and a girl walking around a sacred fire, the symbol of Hindu weddings. The girl is wearing a traditional outfit: a lehenga and a veil. On her chest you can see a mangal sutra, which is the necklace worn by married women – the Indian equivalent of a wedding band.
Both kids seem unhappy and even though they are holding hands, their faces look stern and helpless.
On the right hand side of the paper, Gauri drew the same children, smiling happily. They are wearing school uniforms and walking towards a building where the words 'Rajasthan High School' are written.
Gauri’s drawing is an insightful representation of what young girls endure in Rajasthan. In this rural state, 68% of the girls are married before the legal age and 40% drop out before reaching 5th grade. Education is a right in India, and child marriage is not legal any more – nonetheless old customs are long to die. If we want to change this, mentalities have to evolve and parents have to understand the importance of educating their daughters instead of marrying them off so early.
This is the reason why Educate Girls interacts directly with the communities to provide quality education for all and to give girls better opportunities in life.
Our Team Balika, a cohort of 1,600 volunteers, works tirelessly to leverage the learning outcomes in the three districts where our program is implemented. They train parents to form School Management Committees in order to assess their schools and help teachers and school masters introduce creative learning techniques into the classrooms.
By empowering villages and giving them tools to improve their local schools, literacy rates climb up by 25%!
This month we are celebrating our 6th-year anniversary and are proud to have enrolled more than 50,000 girls into school during that time. If things go as planned, gender inequality will eventually become history in India.
When this happens, girls like Gauri will not draw gloomy pictures of child marriages anymore.
If you want to contribute, support our program by telling your friends and family about our work. We are also grateful for any donation you can make:
Thank you for your generosity!
Let us introduce Mangi, one of our Team Balika volunteers. Mangi is a young woman with dreams of her own. She lives in Rajasthan where she fights for girls’ education in her community.
Mangi was married off at the age of 10. She had to drop out of school to move in with her in-laws. Soon enough her alcoholic illiterate husband started abusing her, and she had no choice but to run back to her parents home. At that point, Mangi decided to get back to her studies and managed to complete high school. Thanks to her strong will and her parents’ support, she now attends university.
Of course it isn’t easy. She has to defy everyone in the village. In rural India it is not common for a young woman to travel alone – even if it means only 10 kilometers to attend college.
People comment on her behavior and her in-laws complain about her attitude. She tries to fight and to speak up – but it is not easy to be heard. The entire society is patriarchal and child marriage is still customary.
Mangi sums up the situation: “A couple has to bear children soon after marriage and they have to be sons, not daughters! If it is a daughter, they wish for her to die at birth! And if she still manages to stay alive, there will be no education for her. Education is only for boys.”
Mangi is a strong believer of equal opportunities for women. This is the reason why she joined Educate Girls’ team and now advocates for girls’ education. She is part of our amazing Team Balika and works towards rejuvenating the government schools in her village.
Thanks to volunteers like Mangi, 52,000 girls have been enrolled. We are present in more than 5,500 schools in Rajasthan. Our goal is now to expand to 37,000 schools in more than 15 districts of India by the end of 2018. To do so, we need your help!
Please donate on Global Giving to send child brides back to school:
Anjali is a 9 year old from Rajasthan, India. She loves drawing, watching movies and painting her hands with beautiful henna designs.
Anjali is a lucky girl. She goes to school every day and her parents support her desire for education.
Anjali is a lucky girl, because not every girl in her village has the opportunity to study. Her cousin, Rani, who is just one year older, got married last summer. In a couple of years, Rani will leave her parents’ to move with her husband’s family.
In Anjali’s school, there is a girls’ parliament called the Bal Sabha (Girls' Council). During Bal Sabha sessions, young girls are taught life skills. They have the opportunity to speak up about their concerns, and by doing so, they gain confidence.
Anjali really likes being part of the Bal Sabha. She particularly enjoys the dance and theater performances they put together. Two months ago, the Bal Sabha girls presented a short play in front of their classmates.
Anjali was playing an Educate Girls’ volunteer visiting a house where a young girl was about to get married. Anjali’s character had to convince the parents to stop the wedding from happening and to send their daughter back to school instead.
The issue of child marriage is quite problematic in the region, and Anjali had to use many arguments to explain why girls should get educated instead of being married off so early. The story had a great impact on the audience and many students had something to recount at the end of the performance.
Since Educate Girls started its program six years ago, more than 52,000 girls have been re-enrolled. Our 1,600 volunteers work tirelessly to improve government-school infrastructures and to increase teaching performances. They show communities how to take care of their schools by submitting School Improvement Plans to the local government. So far, 2,445 such plans have been submitted by school management committees and already 54% of them have been completed!
Almost 11,000 girls are trained as Bal Sabha leaders in the three districts where Educate Girls is implemented. These young girls grow up educated and confident, with knowledge that will help them all their life.
Since the play was performed, Anjali talked to one of Educate Girls’ volunteers. She mentioned her cousin’s marriage and the fact that Rani didn’t go to school any more.
Our volunteer has been to Rani’s house several times to talk to her parents. After much persuasion, they have finally agreed to send their daughter back to school until the time comes where she will leave their home.
Now Rani and Anjali walk to school together, play and do homework in the evening!
Please donate now on Global Giving to send more girls back to school:
Have you ever wondered how your life would be if you had been married as a child?
What would you do if you had in-laws to look after and household chores to handle?
What would happen to school, games, and friends when the only thing that is important for you is serving the dinner on time?
In Rajasthan, India, these questions unfortunately form a part of daily lives of many young girls. Even today, 68% of them are forced into early marriage!
This disturbing tradition remains very prevalent even today and it burdens the whole society. In fact, it directly impacts the community’s economic growth and its social well-being. Underage marriage not only penalizes young girls but also their family and the entire community. As the UNFPA’s State of World Population Report sums up “If adolescent girls in India had been able to wait until their early 20s, the countries would have greater economic productivity equal to over $7.7 billion.”
Educate Girls challenges this status quo. We encourage communities to abandon this archaic custom of child marriage and send daughters to school instead. Since we started our program, six years ago, more than 52,000 girls have been re-enrolled into schools.
One such girl is Sharda.
She is 12 and had been out of school for two years. Her parents were thinking of marrying her, but thanks to our volunteer’s persistent follow up and counseling, she escaped this fate and got re-enrolled. After talking repeatedly with our team, her parents agreed to send Sharda back to school and wait for a few years to get her married.
Had it not been for Educate Girls’ intervention, Sharda would have been expected to leave her family as soon as she reached puberty. She would have had to move into her in-laws’ house where she would have been responsible for cleaning, cooking and taking the cattle to the grazing fields. With no education, she would have had no further prospect in life. She would have been confined to her home and dependent on her husband for everything in life.
Thankfully Sharda will not have to experience this.
She will study before getting engaged. Eventually, she will use her education and life skills learned in school to improve her employability and earning prospects. More importantly, she will be able to provide her own kids with education and a better health care. Thanks to education Sharda will reach her full potential and make a life for herself.
If you want to help girls like Sharda, support our program by telling your friends and relatives about our work. We also encourage you to donate online via Global Giving:
Thank you for your generosity!
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