Girls’ education is both an intrinsic right and a critical lever to reaching other development objectives. Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.
The school enrollment rate for girls between 2002-2009 in India improved by 19.2%, but girls who enrolled in primary dropped out as they moved into higher secondary classes (8th All India Education Survey, NCERT). The reasons girls drop out in low-income schools are safety, eve teasing on their commute to school, lack of toilet facilities for girls, family responsibilities, early marriage and financial troubles. This Guardian article tells the story of a girl who was afraid to report eve teasing to her parents for fear of being pulled out of school. She was right. Her father feared for her “honor” and kept her at home.
Through the course of our work in girls’ education in Mumbai and Pune, we have come across a wide range of social and family circumstances. Some of the girls we work with attend PMC or MCGM schools that do not charge fees. This is sometimes a reflection of their financial circumstances and sometimes a reflection on their reluctance to invest in their daughters’ education. We have come across more than a few families who educate their sons in private schools but enroll their girls in free schools. In the case of low-income families who enroll girls in private schools, many of them struggle to pay the fees in time or at all. The humiliation the girls face at the hands of teachers and other staff who mock them for not paying their fees is a deterrent by itself that prevents girls from attending school.
The Avasara Young Talent program began awarding merit scholarships to girls in Mumbai whose families were in financial distress in 2011. We worked with Teach for India fellows to identify the right candidates for our scholarship: highly motivated and eager to attend school. We began with a small number of 35 scholarships. In the academic year 2014-15, we were able to support 135 deserving girl students from 13 low-income schools across Mumbai.
Avasara Young Talent scholars pose with their certificates and origami presents 🙂
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers who worked tirelessly to collect the data required to dispense the scholarships and our donors who would have contributed generously to allow these girls to complete their education.