Across India, over 3 million girls are out of school. The state of Rajasthan has 9 of India’s 26 worst gender gap districts for girls’ education. Studies show, in this state, 40% of girls drop out of school before class 5, only 15% primary school children can read a simple story in Hindi, and 68% girls are married before the legal age of 18. Cultural norms and longstanding traditions often serve as barriers to girls’ education, but many other factors also lead to high drop out and low enrollment rates for girls. Educate Girls is working to tackle these issues.
A Father’s Love: Diya’s Story
Shravan Ram* (32), from the district of Pali in Rajasthan works as a laborer in a factory. He and his wife never had a formal education, were married young and have three children – two boys (aged 10 & 8) and a girl (13). Three years ago Shravan removed his daughter Diya* from school while she was in the 3rd grade. An Educate Girls Team Balika member, Saroj,* who belonged to the same village, approached him to try and understand his reasons for taking his daughter out of school. Shravan explained,
Not many girls are enrolled in school which means Diya often has to walk the distance alone. The school doesn’t have toilets or facilities for drinking water. Since my boys are young, if my wife and I are out for work together, Diya has to take care of her younger brothers and some household chores. It’s better for her to stay at home.
Saroj expressed her understanding of his concerns but insisted on the importance of schooling for Diya. Despite the common belief in his community that education, especially for girls, was a waste of time, Shravan acknowledged that education would benefit his daughter, yet he still had concerns regarding school facilities and his daughter’s safety. Saroj invited Shravan to a community meeting being organized by Educate Girls, which he agreed to attend.
At the community meeting, Shravan learned about the role of the School Management Committee (SMC) in the school system and how he could advocate for better school infrastructure. SMC’s are 12-15 member councils composed of parents, teachers, village leaders and school leadership that are responsible for school governance and administration. With the help of Educate Girls and Team Balika, these councils are able to prepare and execute School Improvement Plans and conduct school assessments that contribute towards ensuring better school infrastructure and facilities.
Shravan began to understand that encouraging attendance in school for Diya was building a better future not just for her but for their family and community as well. He re-enrolled his daughter in school and volunteered to talk to his neighbors and convince them to send their daughters to school. He was eventually elected to the SMC which, with the training and support received from Educate Girls, was able to get separate latrines for girls and boys installed, as well as access to clean drinking water in the school.
I see how well she is doing in school, and I am proud.” Shravan says of his daughter, now in 6th grade. “The principal at the school is a woman; she is treated with respect and we all call her Madam. My daughter is bright. That could be her one day! I am happy to be a part of the SMC. Thanks to Educate Girls, I know that I can make a difference for my daughter and the other children in the school.
Educate Girls works to mobilize communities to take a stand against gender disparity in schools and prioritize girls’ education. Our comprehensive program model engages students, teachers, schools, communities and the government to ensure increased enrollment, retention and improved learning outcomes.