THE POWER OF A SECOND CHANCE

Meena Bhati with a girl from the village in Pali District, Rajasthan
Meena Bhati with a girl from the village in Pali District, Rajasthan.

Meena Bhati (pictured above with a girl from the village) was born into a Rajput family living in the Chanud Village of Pali district in Rajasthan, India. The Rajput community does not believe in educating a girl child; many families there do not even wish to bring a girl into this world because she is seen as a liability. She grew up in a society where women were treated with inequality in all walks of life. Meena was lucky that her parents gave her the opportunity to study, but only until class 10. She pleaded with her parents to allow her to continue her education after class 10 but she was told to pay attention to household chores and prepare for marriage instead. Soon after she was married, much against her wish.

Little did Meena know, she had another chance waiting for her. Her husband was a teacher, and understood the importance of education. Instead of risking her life with an adolescent pregnancy or being forced to work at home, Meena was re-enrolled in school. Though their parents disapproved, Meena’s husband stood by her side and supported her. She now holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and is taking post-graduate courses in Hindi and Rural Development.

Meena joined Educate Girls 6 years ago, and is our longest-serving employee. She has risen through the ranks and is now a Field Communications Manager. Many of our staff and volunteers, as well as people in the community, look up to her. Though inspiring, Meena’s story is not the norm.

There are 3.7 million out-of-school girls in India. Over 50% of girls in India between the ages of 10 and 13 drop out of school. The state of Rajasthan has 9 of India’s 26 worst gender gap districts in education, where 68% of girls are married below the legal age and 15% are married below the age of 10. Of girls who are enrolled in school in Rajasthan, only 1 in 100 will reach class 12, and 40% of girls leave class before class 5. Many girls are not as fortunate as Meena, but they still deserve a chance.

Educate Girls finds out-of-school girls, enrolls them, and gives them an opportunity to realize their potential. Our holistic approach to education mobilizes communities to take a stand against gender disparity. It involves parents, schools, community leaders, local government, and our own village-based volunteers (Team Balika) to ensure increased enrollment and retention of girls in schools, and improved learning outcomes for all students. We believe that by empowering village communities to prioritize education, more girls can be educated at a larger scale. If more girls are educated, then their health, income levels and overall livelihoods improve, having residual effects on the surrounding community and society as a whole. Meena’s story is an example of what can be achieved when a girl is given a chance to be educated.

Our goal is to improve access and quality of education for around 4 million children living in underserved communities in India by 2018.

Here is a video (in Hindi) of Meena speaking about her ongoing work with Educate Girls.

Twitter: #educategirls #impact #teambalika

WELCOMING ANU VAIDYANATHAN ON BOARD WITH EDUCATE GIRLS!

Anu Vaidyanathan is an impressive – and quite intimidating – woman who has already achieved so much at such a young age! Not only is she a bright professor with a PhD, but she is also a successful triathlete who has been traveling around the world for her sports. She uses her notoriety to raise money for causes she believes in and has recently decided to dedicate part of her time and her efforts to Educate Girls.

Let Anu tell us more about her support for our program and her dedication to girls’ education:

  1. Why do you embrace Educate Girls’ cause?

“Education has served to open many doors in my own life and I believe that it could potentially be the cornerstone to differentiate one’s self out of whatever circumstances one finds themselves in. Educate Girls is unique in both its leadership and focused efforts in Rajasthan, where several cultural and socio-economic factors come into play when speaking about educating women. Having taught in rural Punjab, I got a glimpse of the great disparities in opportunities between rural and urban populations, more so for women. I am very excited about working with a great team of thinkers and looking forward to being a part of their efforts.”

2. Can you tell us more about you and how you intend to use your multiple skills to help Rajasthani girls get the education they deserve?

“I have tried my hand at being an educator, an entrepreneur and an athlete, with no holds barred and a very supportive family. It would be a great privilege for me to share the lessons I have learned along the way (in terms of resilience, self-reliance and persistence) with the girls that are a part of Educate Girls’ outreach and also learn about the immediate barriers they face, understand how much of it can be solved by better funding and how much needs a deeper social debate (either in academic or other public forums) and contribute meaningfully to the objectives Educate Girls have set for themselves.”

3. What gets you the most excited/inspired about working with Educate Girls?

“I would be most eager to visit the field and understanding the gaps in the system that pose as barriers. I am also excited about sharing my knowledge about training for marathons and putting together to run on behalf of Educate Girls and potentially raising funds through sustainable programs in the future.”

4. What would you say to the children you’re helping? What message would you like them to keep in mind as they grow into confident young women?

“I would say to them that self-belief would get them further than any teacher or brand-ambassador can! More seriously, I would reinforce the fact that they are unique and worth every effort in helping their own lives along and that hard work would yield benefits.”

We are so happy and proud to welcome Anu on board and have her advocate our cause around the world! With women acting as positive role models, we can see change happening and a bright future for the next generation of girls!

Please read more about Anu’s incredible career and commitment on her website.

Twitter: #educategirls #impact #triathlete

RUNNING THE GREAT MUMBAI MARATHON 2013 FOR EDUCATE GIRLS

On 20th January, 2013, 15 people ran for a special cause – they ran to show their support and shape the future. They ran for Educate Girls. This was the first year that Educate Girls took part in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, and we are proud to say that our runners made it a huge success.

Chandni Jafri, Tushar Gogia, Nusrat Jafri, Roshani Sanghani, Aditi Patel, Rashid Mohammed, Kunal Bhide, Nooreen Dossa, Shrikant Ayyangar, Neeti Bandodker, Sudarshan Sarma, Hemant Parar, Hansal Mehta, Nupur Shah and Daanish Antulay we are humbled and grateful for your support, faith and passion for education.

Our runners did a brilliant job, training for the run, donating themselves and encouraging their friends and family to donate as well. Our online donations amounted to an extremely generous amount – one which will be used to provide quality education to girls in the villages of Rajasthan.

Among these Tushar Gogia and Chandni Jafri deserve a special mention for their online donations. The highest online fund-raiser Tushar, who also ran the full marathon, had this to say “It is a proud moment for me, as not only was I able to run the entire 42 kms but also managed to surpass my fundraising goal. These funds will be used by Educate Girls to ensure that rural girls in Rajasthan get access to an education in a healthy and wholesome learning environment. It is crucial to educate adolescent girls as they are the future of our society.”

Chandni Jafri, a strong supporter of Educate Girls and the second highest online fundraiser, puts it beautifully, “I love running. When I run, I feel I am on a runway just short of a takeoff – it sets me free. I have strongly believed that educating girls provides just that kind of runway, where takeoff to a great future is a clear promise. And Educate Girls is doing just that kind of stellar work of putting girls’ education on the forefront thus ensuring that our country can fully achieve the potential it’s truly capable of. Imagine when an exciting opportunity like running to support girl’s education came by courtesy the Standard Chartered Marathon and Educate Girls – to be honest, that day I didn’t actually run for any cause, I ran for myself. And yes, will do it as many times as I get a chance.”

Twitter: #educategirls #mumbaimarathon #impact

W FOR WORK

W for Work Child Bride Poster
W for Work Child Bride Poster.

W for Work’ is the last poster of our campaign. It emphasizes the difficult condition of many young Rajasthani girls who have exchanged school work for household work.

Did you know that …

▪More than 17 million children work in India

▪Rural areas concentrate 90% of the Indian working children

The Right to Education Bill, states that no child is supposed to work.  Yet in India, especially in rural areas such as Rajasthan, millions of children still have to work to help sustain their families. Unfortunately, no laws protect children from doing exhausting house chores or spending several hours a day doing agricultural work.

Education is not part of every child’s daily life. Almost half of the girls who drop out of school do so because their families require them to take care of the household. They lack opportunities to get educated, play and experiment a proper childhood.

Statistics show that a large number of girls aged 6 to 14 spend nearly eight hours a day taking care of their siblings, instead of spending time in a classroom. Educate Girls send these girls to school instead.

Join our ‘Send Child Brides to School’ campaign and support us to send every girl child to school!

Twitter: #educategirls #stopchildbrides #genderequality

EDUCATE GIRLS CO-SPONSORS PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION IN SAN FRANCISCO

Mark Tuschman, one of Educate Girls’ favorite photographers, showcased his work at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco in June.

Mark is a professional documentary photographer most recently focusing on issues surrounding women and girls in Africa, India and Latin America and was awarded Global Health Council Photographer of the Year.

In the last two years Mark has visited rural India as part of a long term project to document women’s and young girls’ lack of autonomy over their own lives. We have been happy to have him document the stories at Educate girls on many occasions. Mark also sought to capture the efforts being made to educate and empower them.

“Over the past decade it has become my personal focus to document the lack of autonomy women in the developing world have over their own lives and bodies. I also seek to capture the positive efforts being made to educate and empower women and girls. In India, I’ve concentrated on the work of three NGO’s: the Global Fund for Women, Educate Girls and Action India”, says Mark.

“San Francisco based Global Fund for Women ‘plays a leading role in advancing women’s rights by making grants that support and strengthen women’s groups around the world”, he adds.

Here are some of the photos Mark clicked when he visited Rajasthan with Educate Girls.

Kala cleaning at home by Mark Tuschman
Kala cleaning at home by Mark Tuschman.

“We visited Kala at home. Her parents are both manual laborers and not at home when we visited. Here are photos of her cleaning, studying and another portrait. She had a certain elegance and brightness, and I could not help but feel saddened by the fact that her destiny was determined at three months.”

Chaddi reads to her mother by Mark Tuschman
Chaddi reads to her mother by Mark Tuschman.

“Chaddi a 14 years old child bride is in the 7th grade. She is  reading to her mother, who never had an opportunity for any education.”

Here is Mark talking about his work and the exhibition.

For more information on Mark Tuschman, please visit his website or blog.

Twitter: #educategirls @marktuschman @world_affairs #photography

KATHA SHIVIR – A WORKSHOP TO WRITE STORIES THAT INSPIRE CHANGE!

The Educate Girls office in Pali saw a burst of activity last month when a group of writers and photographers descended upon the staff to collect stories for the Katha Shivir workshop. Among the visitors were Prakash K Ray (filmmaker and cinema researcher from New Delhi), Ram Kumar Singh (Senior Correspondent, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur), Dr. Dushant (Senior Associate Editor, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur), Avinash Das (Journalist, New Delhi), Kishan Deo (Journalist, New Delhi), photographer Vinita Agarwal (UK) and videographer Michael Cottrill (UK).

The Katha Shivir was intended to facilitate the publication of photo stories, short videos and testimonials. During the four day workshop success stories were narrated by the field staff, Team Balika members, community members and of course the girls themselves. The goal of the workshop was to compile the stories of the girls in a structured manner and use them to promote the cause of girl child education. The stories help to share solutions to social problems and inspire innovations to improve girls’ education in India and Rajasthan in particular.

The stories were written in English and Hindi, in a narrative style that captured the imagination of the readers. This included photo essays and stories of child brides, and also girls who stayed in school and escaped the fate of become child brides. The writers also wrote profiles of the young enthusiastic Team Balika members and documented their challenges and achievements. The stories are an autobiographical or biographical expressions of the events and experiences of the girls and the Team Balika volunteers.

Avinash Das talks to us about his experience at the Katha Shivir: “The Katha Shivir was a unique experience! The case studies were very powerful. It’s almost as if there was complete darkness in these villages with no hope of there ever being any light, but getting these girls to schools has given them a new lease on life. Each person had a unique story. I was especially moved by Kanya’s story. She is a twelve year old with the most amazing personality. Her story moved me greatly and I am determined to make a film on her. Her 19 year old brother died in a road accident and her mother went mad with grief. Her father drinks all day and beats up the two women. Kanya manages the whole house. She cooks and cleans, gathers wood from the jungle, goes to school, does her homework. Her life has so many layers! But despite her troubles one can never see any sadness on her countenance. She is so cheerful and talks of wanting to become a dancer or a Bollywood film heroine!”

The workshop wasn’t all serious work though. The group had the chance to unwind, go shopping for the famous Falna radio- a local specialty, and also indulge in a game of cricket!

So what’s next? We will take these stories to rest of the world through newspapers, blogs, print and electronic media. The group of writers and photographers will present 40 photo stories, 500 words each. The video clippings and the stories will further be complied into a book. Watch this space for more updates!

Twitter: #educategirls #tellingstories #teambalika

EDUCATE GIRLS UPDATES FROM SAFEENA HUSAIN!

A young school girl enjoying her education by Mark Tuschman
A young school girl enjoying her education by Mark Tuschman.

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the entire team of Educate Girls I would like to thank you for encouraging us in our journey to empower girls through education. So much has happened in the last few months that we wanted to briefly update you on the progress.

You will be pleased to know that in February I was invited by TEDxASB to speak to an audience of international educators about rejuvenating government schools. Click here to watch the talk.

The Indian Philanthropy Forum’s (IPF) Annual Conference in March 2012 organized by Dasra gave me an opportunity to speak about the issues that adolescent girls in India face at a panel discussion titled ‘Owning Her Future: Empowering Adolescent Girls in India’. The IPF also saw the release of the Indian Philanthropy Report, 2012 published by Bain and Company. We are happy to report that Educate Girls is featured in the report! Please click here.

Our programs are going strong with over 20,000 girls enrolled in schools since last year and almost 1186 teachers in Pali and Jalore trained in Creative Learning Techniques. In addition Educate Girls has launched a new initiative in December last year. As part of this, Educate Girls is building a cadre of village based education volunteers known as Team Balika. Over 500 Team Balika members have been recruited and trained across Pali and Jalore. These educated youth are champions for girl education and support Educate Girls’ programs to ensure enrollment and retention of every girl along with provision of quality education. We are delighted to share the Team Balika logo with you.

Our efforts and your support have been appreciated and recognized, we were nominated for the WomenChangeMakers Award and have also been shortlisted for the second stage of the Stars Impact Awards. The results will be declared soon!

We thank you for your continuous support and encouragement for every milestone achieved.

Warm regards,

Safeena Husain

Executive Director

Twitter: #educategirls @TEDNews @DasraIndia @WomenChangeMake #milestones