Help Educate Girls in India

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Learning about University Life
Learning about University Life

It’s a big day here in India as the new school year starts. This morning there will be many excited and apprehensive children getting into their new uniforms and packing their bags with their until now unused books, pencil cases, water-bottles and tiffin ready to enter their new classrooms. Thanks to your support, among them will be children orphaned by HIV, children of sex workers and those from very poor communities who are strating school for the very first time in our Lower Kindergarden (LKG) class at our English Medium and slum community schools. We know how important education is, especially for those who come from poor backgrounds and we will be making sure our children know we are there to support them all the way with special welcome programs that will set them on the right path in their learning journeys.

At the other end of their school journey are this year’s 12th standard graduates. With your support, over the past three years we have seen a 350% increase in our students A and B grade results and this year 100% of our slum center, children’s and over 18’ shelter girls passed with great results. This is especially impressive when you consider that many of our beneficiaries are in our care due to extremely traumatic backgrounds.

Our Educate. Empower. Lead. Campaign with Malala Fund is helping us to ensure more girls like these complete their full 12 years of education (India’s Right to Education Act only regulates this for children aged 6-14). We not only nurture and support our children to reach 12th Standard we actively encourage them to continue into higher education (HE). With your help we are already ensuring that all of our children with the ability and ambition can continue their studies in their chosen subjects. However, like everywhere else in the world education can be expensive and we have to find them courses with fees we can afford and secure hostels they can gain their independence at their own pace. Until now we have primarily been placing them close to our home, but we want to open up their options and encourage them to consider all of the choices on offer.

Therefore, we recently took 46 girls aged 15 to 17 to ‘the Oxford of the East’, Savitribai Phule Pune University, one of the finest educational centers in India. The girls from our Rehab center and slum schools had the opportunity to explore the extensive grounds and facilities to learn more about admissions, entry requirements, scholarships and earn and learn schemes that could help ensure them a place at the top university and support them through their studies. They had a fantastic day as ‘students’ in the department of mass communications, going behind the scenes in a television studio, learning more about feminism and gender studies in the Women’s Study Center and library, visiting the anthropology department’s museum and getting a real taste of university life eating in the canteen. The visit opened up a whole new class of study for our girls, blasting away their preconceptions that these types of institutions are only for the rich.

In the coming weeks we will continue these visits to a whole range of other institutions, showing them the wide breadth of subjects open to them, and are hoping with the support of you and others they will have unlimited access to the best courses on offer. Thank you for supporting our education projects that help them achieve the results that not only open up more choices to them but also give them the confidence to aim higher.

Going behind the scenes
Going behind the scenes
Shining a light on media studies
Shining a light on media studies
Introduction to Gender studies
Introduction to Gender studies
Getting to know The Oxford of the East
Getting to know The Oxford of the East
Celebrating our 12th Standard graduates
Celebrating our 12th Standard graduates

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Meena's confidence is growing day-by-day
Meena's confidence is growing day-by-day

Thank you for your support of girls education. With over 4 million Indian girls missing from classrooms we still have a long way to go to balance the gender gap in education. We are currently over half way through our Educate. Empower. Lead, campaign in partnership with Malala Fund. We have already delivered 20 workshops with our own beneficiaries and are now taking the campaign on the road. As well as promoting girls’ education, women and child rights and laws and gender equality through these workshops and presentations we are also striving to give girls the practical life skills and experiences that will help empower them further.

One way we are doing this is through the recruitment and development of peer mentors, girls aged between 13 and 17 who are the children of sex workers, living with HIV/AIDS and slum dwellers. We want to hear from them how we should be running the campaign, what issues they face as girls and their soutions to redress the balance in education. It is also really important that they have the opportunity to present their views to change and policy-makers.

Meet Meena

One highlight of our current campaign was a program of eight hours of self-defence training to nearly 200 girls which was delivered by US-NGO, Green Tara Project. The organisation visited our projects last year and three girls who had completed the level 1 training were recruited to act as teaching assistants to four classes completing the same level this year.

All three girls did such a fantastic job taking the lead demonstrating and encouraging participants to pass the course we invited them to become peer mentors. They are really throwing themselves into every element and taking up the opportunities to develop personally including speaking and presenting workshops, taking photos, shooting videos, attending training and interviewing and selecting new peer mentors.

One of them, Meena is a strong and confident 16-year-old who enjoys playing cricket, reading and studying geography and has the ambitions of becoming a police officer. She and her brother have been living at our shelter home since 2009 when her father died, and their illiterate mother was no longer able to offer them a safe home and education. Meena is determined to break the cycle of poverty she was born into by succeeding in her own future, saying: “Snehalaya staff and children are very supportive and encouraging in making sure I get the best education. My mother wants me to return home and start working to help support her, but I know I need to stay here to achieve my ambition of becoming an Indian Police Service officer.”

She adds: “I am really enjoying taking part in the campaign. I get to visit new places and enjoy working alongside the Malala staff team and I feel like I have an equal responsibility to make the campaign a success. At first, I was nervous about speaking in front of large crowds, but I am now very confident, especially after girls have come up to me to thank me for sharing my presentation.

“I am proud to be standing with Snehalaya and Malala to help improve girls’ education and empower girls by explaining their rights and giving them inspiration to do the same. Before this campaign I saw boys as being above girls but by telling other people about gender equality I have begun to believe in myself and can see we are equal.”

With your support we aim to reach over 3,000 more girls living in our district and improve the outlook for them. Thank you.

Over 30 mentors are completing regular training
Over 30 mentors are completing regular training
14 mentors helped organise & lead our youth camp
14 mentors helped organise & lead our youth camp
Putting the 'POW' in empowerment
Putting the 'POW' in empowerment
Our Educate. Empower. Lead. youth camp was a hit
Our Educate. Empower. Lead. youth camp was a hit

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The girls are really engaging with the campaign
The girls are really engaging with the campaign

Thank you for your support, we really appreciate you investing in our girls’ futures. You are amongst good company, the most famous girls’ education activist Malala Youszafi is also supporting our girls through her Malala Fund’s Educate. Empower. Lead. campaign.

She has chosen to support us in promoting education based on our proven track record in running 18 projects in rural India which give us unique access to many girls at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, which the campaign is seeking to reduce. Nearly 200 girls rescued from trafficking, sexual abuse and orphaned by HIV live in our Rehabilitation Center children’s shelter. Another 1,000 are engaged in our Balbhavan project which runs community centers in urban slums with after school classes, extracurricular activities and vocational training.

Since September, nearly 200 of these girls aged 13-17 have been attending regular workshops and activities to promote the importance of staying in education. We have also been educating them on gender equality, sex education, self-defence, their rights and the national and international laws and conventions that protect them and entitle them to an equal education. The overall aim is to empower them with the confidence and knowledge to become leaders in the education agenda within India and beyond.

Highlights so far have included them coming up with their own solutions to some of the barriers they face, for example slum dwellers and rescued girls have difficulty in providing the required documentation for entering higher education. They have written letters and recorded videos to share their suggestions and insights to issues like these with education ministers and leaders.

We have also given them the opportunity to hear directly from those who have experienced exploitation themselves. These are the sex workers we work with in our other projects who have been trafficked or forced into prostitution as a result of their poor socio-economic background. As a staggering 75% of them are illiterate, we felt that it would be much more powerful and effective to ask them to share their own stories and impact of missing out on an education with the girls themselves. Their talks have been very powerful. Although many of our children come from and are familiar with red-light areas through our work, hearing first hand from women without education who felt that sex work was the only option for them has made a real impact on them. The women also did a great job in stressing how education is important in creating more choice and avoiding the same destiny as them.

We have lots more to come. After Christmas we will be taking the campaign to our local red-light areas and other communities where girls are most at risk. We will also be running competitions, visits to higher education institutions, hearing more talks from successful women and participating in meetings with change and policy-makers until the end of the campaign in July. We hope that by educating as many girls as possible on their rights and encouraging them to complete their education we will maintain our record of no underage sex workers in our district.

We hope you will continue to work alongside us and Malala to support our girls and give them the education they are entitled to. Thank you so much.

Education should be fun
Education should be fun
Our sex workers know how important education is
Our sex workers know how important education is
This is our third education campaign with Malala
This is our third education campaign with Malala

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Saba swapped a wedding dress for a welding iron
Saba swapped a wedding dress for a welding iron

Thank you for supporting our organisation and projects which are rooted in campaigning and acting to empower children at risk through providing education.

When as a teenager, our founder Girish approached female sex workers to ask how he could help them they pointed to their children. Resigned to their own fates they wanted better for them, they wanted them to have the education that they had missed out on in the hope that it would give them brighter futures. From that day, when Girish started Snehalaya by teaching two children, education has been at the heart of our work in tackling the broader issues, such as commercial sexual exploitation of children, facing our society.  As a donor to our cause we know you believe in the value and power of girls’ education.

We established our Balbhavan projects to stop slums from being the recruitment grounds for pimps and brothel keepers and we are proud to report that by promoting and providing educational support there are no longer underage sex workers in our district. Also, thanks to you, last year our team was able to conduct 4,505 home and 2,100 school visits. Through these they identified and counselled 50 school drop-outs to return to education, helped another 308 pupils with their admissions to good schools and colleges and awarded 130 of our brightest evening class students scholarships of financial support for education materials.

We focus our work in areas where girls are at most risk, using education to prevent their exploitation, which is so important when you consider:

  • 27,994 women in India were rescued from trafficking between 2014-2016

  • There was a 20% rise of women and children trafficked in India in 2016

  • Only 7% of trafficked women are rescued

  • 80% of trafficked Indians are women and girls forced into commercial sex work

  • One million Indian women are married before they reach 18

  • 75,000 children in Maharashtra, a large proportion of them girls, don’t attend school

Following the success of last year’s #StandwithMalala campaign where we reached a staggering 27,000 people, including the uneducated girls and local leaders in our city slums, we are pleased to announce we are once again supporting Malala Fund in a year-long campaign.

Educate, Empower, Lead will engage with girls aged 13-17 at risk or the victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, to inspire them to stand up for their rights to their own education. We will also empower them to challenge the barriers to equality in education and give them the dais to advocate for it with key influencers and decision makers.

We aim to reach wider and provide a safe haven, counselling, legal aid, vocational training, education and alternatives to sex work to those living in our own shelter, within five red light and seven slum areas and girls living in other low socio-economic communities through our 18 empowerment projects and focussed outreach work. We’ll also be promoting and opening up opportunities for further and higher education and vocational training through our own projects and in collaboration with local authorities, NGOs and educational institutions. The aim is to use education to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of those at risk from opportunists.

Too many girls like Deepa, orphaned when her mother died of a HIV-related illness, are forced into prostitution. She was 15 when we rescued her from a brothel and re-enrolled her in school, today she is a fully-trained nurse.

“Educate a girl and you educate a whole community”

Malala Youszafi

One of the girls who joined us on our previous Malala campaign trail to share her story is Saba, who will be joining us again as a peer mentor to help us deliver this new campaign.

Saba lives in a predominantly Muslim slum with her widowed mother and four siblings. When her father’s family started applying pressure on her to get married it was our team she approached. As our staff are drawn from and based in these communities, they are best placed to understand and address culturally sensitive issues and provide solutions. They counselled and helped Saba convince her family that she should be allowed to pursue her dream of studying engineering. She has just entered her second year of a degree course and has become our own personal Malala, inspiring others to stand up for their rights to a full education.

There are still many more children who need our support, stand with Malala and Snehalaya today and help us to reach further to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of girls through education.

Proud to #StandwithMalala
Proud to #StandwithMalala

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Top of the class!
Top of the class!

A Winner All The Way

Sonali is feeling on top of the world at the moment and this is reflected in her beaming smile since she learned she had passed her 10th standard exam achieving a 78% result. 

And we're all feeling pretty proud of her here at Snehalaya, proud but not surprised. Sonali has always stood out as a model student with her good nature and determination to succeed in all she attempts. Her dedication to her education so that that she can realise her ambition to become an IPS (Indian Police Service) officer has been breathtaking.

It's all a far cry from her roots...

Sonali and her three siblings are the children of a female sex worker. Her father died when she was a baby, leaving it hard for her mother to give the attention needed in the red light area, where the children were at risk of opportunists and exploitation. Her older sisters went on to marry but this didn't ease her mother's concern of what might become of her remaining son and daughter.

Snehalaya was conducting a survey in the area and came across Sonali and her family's plight. It was clear at once that her mother was unable to meet her children's health and educational needs, so with her blessing Sonali and her brother were admitted into Snehalaya seven years ago.

Since then Sonali has come a long way, she remains very focused in all her endeavors at Snehalaya, whether that be in the classroom or on the sports field. A keen sports woman she excels in karate, football, kabbadi and cricket. She applies the same concentration and energy as she does to her educational studies to succeed and be a winner.
She recently won a bronze medal for coming first in Judo.

Thanks to your continued support you are helping Sonali to be one step nearer to achieving her dream of not just being an IPS officer but being a great one.

A Healthy Option

It's 1 am in our new 50-bed hospital which is delivering quality care treatments and medicines to people from poor economic backgrounds who are affected by HIV and AIDS, in surroundings normally reserved for people receiving private care. The patients range from those suffering from complications brought on by the virus to those that are more gravely ill.

All is quiet apart from the bleeping coming from the lifesaving equipment in ICU.

Moving silently but efficiently through the wards are the angels who have recently been trained as part of our newest initiative, our Bedside Assistance Training programme.

This can entail monitoring the patients care needs, administering the necessary drugs and changing drips and feeds when required.

Part of the team is our very own beneficiary 18 year old Pramila. Her ready smile and easy going nature with her patients disguise a trauma that befell her in the not so distant past.

To understand her triumph over adversity its perhaps best to go back nearly two years ago to see how a young girl with limited choices would later go on to make important decisions that would test her strength, courage and go on to shape her future.

Pramila comes from very poor family and was admitted into a government hostel in the hope she would be better provided for there. While the institution provided the basics, the prison-like atmosphere prompted her along with six other girls, to break out in the dead of night.

While most of the others ran back to their families, Pramila found the 30-year-old married man she had been having an affair with before she entered the home. The 15-year-old moved in with the father of a 13-year-old. It was here she lived until she was found by her father six months later.

He promptly returned her to the hostel and filed a rape complaint against her ‘boyfriend’. A district judge ruled that her previous hostel was not a safe home for this vulnerable girl. He issued a court order that she be sent to one of the best homes available, with a reputation for keeping its beneficiaries safe, happy and secure, that home was Snehalaya.

Pramila moved to our Rehab Centre 10 months ago and has settled in really well. She took to the stage at our Ganpati Chaturthi festival to sing in front of our other 250 children. As her heavenly voice drifted across the campus it was impossible to tell that she had lengthy and potentially traumatic legal actions to face in the not too distant future.

Fortunately our counselors and staff are well trained in this area and helped her prepare. It’s thanks to their support that when her parents, fearing recriminations in the community they are all from, suggested she drop the case and instead become the second wife of her ‘boyfriend’, she was adamant that they proceed and he face justice.

The cared for has now become the carer, Pramila's father was recently admitted into the hospital and she now lovingly makes sure he is as comfortable as possible.

She is fully committed to her studies and hoping for a future where she can continue to help others.

It's thanks to your support that we have built the reputation we have for providing safe care and education for vulnerable girls like these. On behalf of all of our children, thank you for choosing to help us.

PS Good news! From 27 June to 8 August, our rescue project, which supports our work with women and girls at risk from Commercial Sexual Expolitation and Trafficking (CSET), will receive 50% match funding as part of our #HerVoice campaign to end gender discrimination and violence. Click on the link below to give further support to India's vulnerable women and girls. 

We're bowled over by her results
We're bowled over by her results

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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
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Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Joyce Connolly
Epsom,, Surrey United Kingdom
$52,631 raised of $95,000 goal
 
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