The Child Brides: Send Them to School instead

by Educate Girls
Team Balika, Deepa, ensures Kishbu enjoys school
Team Balika, Deepa, ensures Kishbu enjoys school

Kishbu Bairagi* is a 12 year old girl living in a small village in Rajasthan. She dropped out of school in grade 4 and began doing all the household work. She was married off as a child bride at a much younger age and was responsible for taking care of the cattle and looking after her younger siblings. As a result of added responsibilities, she was unable to go to school and was compelled to drop out of school. Getting educated and going to school remained a far-fetched dream for Kishbu.

When Team Balika (Community Volunteer), Deepa Sharma visited Kishbu’s house, she learnt from Kishbu’s parents that their daughter no longer wanted to go to school. Kishbu later confided in Deepa and told her that she felt apprehensive to go to school, now that she was older than most children and did not know much. She was scared as well as embarrassed to go to school as all other children of her age were either in 7th or 8th grade.

Deepa and Sadhana Sharma (Field Coordinator) coaxed Kishbu to join school again. However, due to her apprehensions, Kishbu could not gather the courage to return to school. Deepa however did not give up and continued to persuade Kishbu relentlessly. Finally one day Kishbu agreed. Kishbu’s parents were delighted. Deepa helped Kishbu with the enrolment process into the neighbourhood school.

On her walk to the school to get enrolled, Kishbu proudly told Deepa that she wanted to get admitted to standard 6th. A preliminary test was held to assess Kishbu’s learning levels. The school Principal and teachers suggested that Kishbu be enrolled in standard 5 based on her performance in the test. They ensured her that as her learning levels would increase, she would be promoted to higher grades.

Today, Kishbu goes to school every day smartly dressed in her school uniform. She also does the household work after she returns from school. She has become more confident and is learning very well. She looks forward to going to school every day. Team Balika, Deepa, is taking efforts and care to ensure that Kishbu stays in school and continues learning well. 

*Name changed to protect identity of minor.

Aarti (10) and Vidhi (8) live in Rajasthan, India
Aarti (10) and Vidhi (8) live in Rajasthan, India

When Aarti* (10) and Vidhi* (8) were born, there was a celebration a rare occurrence in rural Rajasthan but very common in their economically backward village. This is because Aarti and Vidhi, by virtue of their gender, are eligible to join the prevalent medium of employment in their village – prostitution. A chance at receiving an education can now change their destiny!

The Educate Girls’ Team from Mumbai is at Aarti and Vidhi’s home for a photo-shoot. Just half an hour into the shoot, the villagers get squeamish. They are worried that we’ve come under the guise of an NGO working in their village but actually want to investigate and expose their ‘secret activities’. They start to question Aarti and Vidhi’s father and pressurize him to send us away. However, one the few educated members of the village community is shown our credentials, which helps dispel the villagers’ apprehensions.

In the midst of this tense atmosphere, Aarti and Vidhi narrate their story. They have four younger siblings and their parents are illiterate. Sometimes, their father finds work in small construction sites in nearby areas. But finding paid work is scarce in this difficult terrain which does not support agriculture. As a result, the only true possible source of income for the very poor families is often sending their adolescent girls into prostitution. Like most girls here, Aarti and Vidhi were set on a path that led to this profession.

In 2014, Educate Girls’ operations scaled up to include the district where the two girls live. Since then, Educate Girls’ Field Coordinator Jitendra and Team Balika (community volunteer) Satyanarayan have conducted various village meetings to sensitize the community toward the importance and benefits of girls’ education. They have challenged the prevalent mindset and keep urging people to educate their children and look for other options of employment.

Once the two girls were identified as out-of-school girls, Satyanaran started visiting their parents regularly to explain to them the benefits of educating their daughters. Initially they were hesitant to get their girls educated, as they feared breaking away from the community’s traditions. In addition, they also depended on Aarti and Vidhi to help out with house-hold chores and taking care of their siblings. However, Satyanarayan continued with his efforts to persuade them. He took them to the government school in the village and showed them the way Educate Girls partners with the school to achieve improved school infrastructure and learning outcomes for the children. He made them aware of the world of other employment opportunities that would open up for their girls if they were educated.

Finally, Aarti and Vidhi’s parents agreed to send their daughters to school. Their parents still face resistance from the community, who were shocked at this decision. As Jitendra puts it, “It’s like a tug of war – we keep advocating their girls’ education and the villagers keep pushing them to reconsider and not get swayed by our words. We need to win this because when we do, we will positively change the lives of even those who are now against us.”

Aarti and Vidhi’s spirits are unaffected by this cultural and social dilemma. They enjoy going to school and have realized that this is what they want. Aarti wants to become a police officer when she grows up. She has seen police officers frequent the village to keep a check on the prostitution racket and knows that people are scared of them: “I don’t want to scare people. I just know that police have the power to make people do the right thing. That’s what I want.”

Aarti and Vidhi are both doing well in school and they love the sessions during which Satyanarayan uses Educate Girls’ Creative Learning and Teaching (CLT) kit for teaching. Aarti is learning to read the time on a clock. She has shown her mother how to read the time as well. Her mother said, “Although I am afraid and I know we need money, I am happy that my girls are getting an opportunity that I didn’t get. Perhaps their lives will be different. Perhaps time will show them a better future than I could ever imagine. This is why I’ve agreed to educate them.”

*Names changed to protect the identity of the minors

Educate Girls works in the remotest rural areas of Rajasthan, where it is often the only NGO to operate. By bringing girls back to school and ensuring they stay and learn well, Educate Girls significantly enhances the life chances of some of the most marginalized children in India. For instance, each extra year of education increases a girl’s income by 10 to 20%. An educated girl will benefit from a better health, make more informed decisions for herself and reduce her risk of exposure to domestic violence. She will also be more likely to send her own children to school.

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Girls are only expected to do household chores
Girls are only expected to do household chores
Gathering villagers to generate awareness
Gathering villagers to generate awareness
Convincing the girls
Convincing the girls' parents to enroll them
Aarti and Vidhi in their school uniforms
Aarti and Vidhi in their school uniforms
Discovering the joy of learning
Discovering the joy of learning
Aarti learns to tell the time
Aarti learns to tell the time

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Kirti
Kirti's back in school!

Kirti* is a young girl from a village in Rajasthan, India. She has two brothers and a sister. Her mother is illiterate, while her father has very basic literacy skills. Kirti’s parents are farmers. The family lives in an area where henna, a plant used for natural dying, grows abundantly. Most households earn their main source of income from the harvest. The usual scenario for girls like Kirti in her village is to drop out after completion of primary school and then either start helping with the cultivation or stay home and do domestic chores.

In Kirti’s village, after primary school, one has to travel to another village, which is 5-7 kilometres away, to continue their secondary schooling. Since there are no easy means of transport available, Kirti dropped out of school and stayed at home once she had completed 5th grade.

An Educate Girls’ Team Balika (community volunteer), Bablu Kanwar, visited Kirti’s home. On being asked about Kirti’s further studies, her father spoke of his reluctance to send his daughter far away for schooling. It was unsafe, expensive and futile in light of the fact that she wouldn’t really need an education to be a wife and mother in the future. Kirti remembers feeling distressed during this conversation. She wanted to protest and express her desire to study but knew she had no right to speak against her father’s wishes. Bablu challenged Kirti’s parents to change their mind-set concerning their daughter’s education. He explained why it was important for adolescent girls to study and be empowered and how not just their family but their entire community could progress when both girls and boys get educated.

Bablu continued visiting Kirti’s home to persuade her parents to send her to school and soon he became Kirti’s new inspiration. Kirti knew that in spite of the lack of facilities, Bablu was the first person in their village to have completed his 12th grade. She questioned, “If he could study, why can’t I?”

Eventually Bablu took Kirti’s father to the closest KGBV (Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya), a government-run, free residential secondary school for girls, which is 25 kms away from their village. Finally, Kirti’s father agreed to enroll her in the KGBV. Kirti still remembers how she rushed out of her home to tell the good news to her friend when she heard it from her father.

Kirti and two other girls from her village were enrolled in the KGBV through Educate Girls’ efforts. Even though Kirti was excited to go back to school, she was apprehensive about staying away from home and wondered if the new teachers and environment would suit her. At first, Kirti felt home-sick and considered leaving. Her teacher helped her understand that going back home was not an option if she truly wanted to study further. Now, in the second year of her studies at the KGBV (7th grade), Kirti acknowledges that her teacher was right, “I am so grateful that Ms. Shobha didn’t allow my emotions to come in the way of what was good for me. If I had not followed her advice I wouldn’t be here, pursuing my dreams!”

One of the things Kirti loves about the KGBV is the fact that it has so many girls, from different villages and castes, all living together without any discrimination. Within many of their villages, caste discrimination is still prevalent and widespread. Even at this young age Kirti is sensitive to gender discrimination as well. She says, “No one listens to the women! Our voices are seldom heard. Even here at school, girls don’t easily express their desires.”

Kirti wants to become a police officer in the future and wishes there was a secondary school in her village so that all the girls could continue studying without impediment: “I want to serve my country as a law enforcer, use my voice to fight for good and encourage others to do the same. I want every girl in my village to be educated! If they study they will have more opportunities for development and they will find their own voices, just like I have found mine!”

*Name changed to protect identity of the minor

Educate Girls is an Indian NGO that tackles gender discrimination in education. We work towards achieving quantifiable impact by enhancing the government’s existing investment in rural schools in some of India’s most educationally backward districts, using our three-pronged approach of enrollment of all out-of-school girls, retention in school and improvement of learning outcomes. We value your partnership in helping us get more girls into schools!

Learn more about us on our Website.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube!

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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/

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Organization Information

Educate Girls

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website: http:/​/​www.educategirls.ngo
Project Leader:
Arundhati Bose
Mumbai, MH India