Zeenat lives with her mother two sisters and one brother in Mallikpur a suburb near Kolkata. She comes from a broken family as her parents do not live together. They separated a long time back when Zeenat was very young. At present Zeenat has completed her BA and LLB. When she was in class XII she came to us for sponsorship as she was facing hardship to meet her educational expenses. She has studied hard and slowly and steadily her dreams are all but realized.
Zeenat is now working under a senior advocate to gain experience - for which she is not paid. After work she gives tuition to students for which she earns a meagre Rs 700.00 (£7 or USD8.50) per month to help support her family.
Zeenat's mother used to work in a garment manufacturing factory but she lost her job during Covid - 19 pandemic. This has added to the family woes. The family is now almost fully dependent on Zeenat's uncle to survive.
In order to start to practise as a lawyer and to begin to earn money, Zeenat needs a licence from the Bar Council. This will costs Rs 10000.00. For £100 or £121 you can help Zeenat achieve her dream of practising the law and supporting her family. This is why we help these young women. They have their dreams but they need your support.
Priya wants to work in a bank. This is a huge ambition. Priya’s mother is illiterate and earns a few rupees making paper bags and packets. Her father has a small stationery shop attached to the house. Total household income per month is 6000 rupees. Just £64 or USD73. Priya is a bright and enthusiastic 18 year old who joined our girl sponsorship programme 3 years ago when her parents were no longer able to support her education. Since joining the programme Priya has been able to stay in school and this year passed her class XII board exams and was admitted to university to study for a Bachelor of Commerce. Girls like Priya, first generation learners from very poor backgrounds, find it very difficult to fulfil their dreams. Poverty and social pressure drive them into early marriage where they simply repeat the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and drudgery endured by their mothers. Priya is fortunate that her family share her desire to make a better life and sought out the help Priya needs.
With continued support of about £30 a month, Priya will complete her degree and then take banking exams. With a good job she will be financially independent and able to make her own life decisions. It is a priceless gift.
There are many many more girls like Priya who need your support. Please consider a regular donation of £30 to give another girl a chance of freedom, choice and financial independence.
In May 2022 I visited our projects in Kolkata for the first time since February 2020. After the COVID lockdowns and the extensive school closures I was concerned about how the girls had coped.
In fact, thanks to your generosity we were able to supply the girls with smartphones and they have all been able to ride out the setbacks and continue with their education.
We now have a number of girls studying at university with big career ambitions. We also have a number of girls (and boys) who are working through their school exams and want to go on to university. So while I was in Kolkata we took the opportunity to bring in a group of our 16 – 18 year olds as well as some of our undergraduates for a meeting, an opportunity to share their experiences. Every one of those young people is a first generation learner from a very poor family. The girls have to resist society’s (and often their family’s) pressures to marry or to enter the workplace to supplement the family income.
The meeting was tremendously moving. One by one our undergraduate girls stood up and told the 40 assembled youngsters about their journeys. There were many tears.
Sakina told how her mother had recently died and how she is struggling to stay in college now that her biggest supporter is no longer there. She misses her mum but is determined to battle on and complete her education.
Zeenat lives in great poverty in Mallickpore a little way outside urban Kolkata. Her family is very poor but after years of struggle and thanks to your generosity she is now a qualified lawyer.
Tabassum lives alone with her mother. She is currently studying for her Masters and wants to go on and train as a teacher. But they are very poor and her mother was working as a maidservant to support her. So Tabassum now does several hours tutoring a week so that her mother doesn’t have to do this exploitative and humiliating work.
Another girl told us her mother is so sick that she herself is going out to do her mother’s maidservant work for her – on top of her education.
The meeting was a great success, especially as Zainab had made a cake which was shared out between us all. I hope that the youngsters can get together regularly to share their experiences and encourage one another. Despite the hardships these girls endure, their resourcefulness and determination shone through. And I could see that the aspiring college students were absolutely rapt.
Your donations ensure that all the educational costs are covered. Bags, books, stationery, fees, extra tuition and any necessary nutrition and medical help. But life is terribly hard even with sponsorship – these girls are fighters and with your support will battle on.
Saheen lives in a single room in Kolkata’s Darapara slum. She is studying in class XI at Khanna School. She is the oldest of three children. Her sister is in year VI and her brother dropped out of school aged about 10 and is a day labourer contributing about £20 a month to the household. Saheen’s father died at 36 from alcoholism. Her mother, being illiterate, is a maidservant, earning about £25 a month for long hours of highly exploitative work. Saheen’s family is not unusual. The real hope for Saheen and the rest of the family is education. Thanks to this programme and her sponsor, Saheen is being supported through the final years of school and, she hopes, into college. She loves to play football and to dance.
Saheen has only recently joined this sponsorship programme and we really hope she does well. She is certainly determined.
It has been a terribly difficult two years for our 20 girls. Schools in West Bengal were closed altogether for 9 months from March 20 until January 21 and then again for a further 5 months from May to November 2021. And the schools closed again for all of January 2022. But they are now open again and there are high hopes that school children and college students can resume their education in person.
We were able to support the girls by providing smartphones to those who had no other means of contacting their teachers or accessing online education. For the younger girls, their teachers delivered schoolwork to their homes and phoned the parents to check up on the families. Our staff, Shreya and Aamna kept a close eye on the girls, encouraging them to keep working. Most of the families, already very poor, suffered financially. Many parents lost their jobs and are now only just surviving on daily wages.
With your help we were able to provide food rations to every family and we continue to do so for those who still need it.
We are especially proud of our 5 college students who have battled on throughout this difficult time. Zeenat is close to qualifying as a lawyer. Tabassum, Shehnaz and Sabahat all plan to be teachers. And Ayesha, who is a very good artist, wants to be a web designer. These girls will soon be educated, independent and the pride of their families.
Thank you for your generosity.
Kolkata’s schools have been closed for over 12 of the last 18 months. For a girl from a poor family, like Zainab, this could have been catastrophic. Across India girls have dropped out of education and ended up in child labour or married off.
Even in the good times, just getting to school has been difficult for Zainab. She lives in a single room with her parents and 2 younger brothers. Her father drives a 3-wheeled auto-rickshaw and often comes in late at night. So it is hard for the children to get enough sleep to be ready for school in the morning. It is easy to fall behind and end up dropping out.
During lockdown, the children have had to study at home, overseen by their parents, both of whom are illiterate. Fortunately for Zainab, who is sponsored under this project, she received a smartphone which has enabled her to continue her studies online. She is a hard working and determined girl and this year she passed her class X board exam (GCSE equivalent) and graduated to class XI. She aspires to a college education.
The family has really struggled throughout the pandemic: Zainab’s father couldn’t work at all during the first lockdown and when he does work he earns very little as he rents the auto-rickshaw. Zainab’s mother is engaged in highly exploitative piecework sticking plastic jewels on slippers. She earns around Rs50 a day (£0.50). It is to avoid this that Zainab is studying.
During the pandemic we delivered emergency food rations to all our sponsored girls’ families. Shreya and Aamna, the programme co-ordinators, kept in touch with the girls and ensured that everything was done to keep the girls safe, in education and still focussed on a better future.
Thanks to all our wonderful donors and sponsors (including Jean who has sponsored Zainab for several years) for your continued support. It is absolutely priceless for these girls.
There are 18 girls on this programme, all from poor families existing on very low daily wages. Our aim is to offer these girls a better future through education. It costs about £27 a month to provide the books, stationery, uniform, shoes, fees, medical expenses, extra nutrition and the use of our very own girls’ library and computer centre in the heart of their community. When it is possible we bring the girls in for fun activities, awareness sessions and counselling.
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