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.
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*Name changed to protect the identity of the child