TEN YEARS OF PROJECT SHE (SCHOLARSHIP FOR HIGHER EDUCATION) – UPDATE: We are excited to share the incredible achievements and progress of one of our central programs – SHE – in this and upcoming posts as well as on the blog. SHE has successfully completed a full decade of helping disadvantaged youths to achieve their potential. During this decade, our communities have been battling known as well as unknown circumstances, which are often very deep-rooted in society. Various challenges such as poverty remain an ongoing obstacle standing in the way of women’s empowerment. In addition, our communities continue to face the challenges of their socio-cultural conditions.
Despite persistent gender discrimination and violence against girls’ and women as the most stubborn barrier to female empowerment, our communities have learned how to push back against these detrimental forces through proper planning and implementation. Over the last few years, school dropouts have decreased, as have juvenile marriages, gender discrimination, gender-based violence, and trafficking.
The reporting period of this update covers June, 2021 – May, 2022, which was an extremely difficult period due to the dual effects of pandemic lockdowns as well as a catastrophic cyclone. While our NGO partner NISHTHA was fully engaged in damage control, people in the community were focused on salvaging any remaining resources, and on surviving one day to the next. The parents of our beneficiary girls were not interested in providing education and security to their daughters as they scoured for new livelihood opportunities.
As traffickers actively lurked the communities in search of vulnerable girls, it became increasingly difficult to protect them, as even some of their parents considered them to be liabilities that needed to be turned from a burden into a resource. NISHTHA miraculously succeeded in keeping the girls engaged with their education through sanitization programs, rallies, protests and one-on-one sessions.
EDUCATION IS THE GREATEST PROTECTION FOR GIRLS. Protecting our beneficiary girls from baiters and traffickers has been a massive challenge for our NGO partner in India, NISHTHA. While the presence of traffickers lurking in these communities has greatly increased since the start of the pandemic, many of the girls’ parents consider their daughters to be liabilities that need to be turned from a burden into a resource. Allowing their daughters to be trafficked is not an unthinkable choice for many families during these desperate times. One of the ways that NISHTHA has responded to traffickers’ heightened activities has been by increasing their own presence and vigilance in the villages.
In such a perilous and unstable environment, a powerfully effective way to protect girls from being trafficked, child marriage, and forced labor is by keeping them engaged with their formal education. Due to pandemic restrictions, however, physical schools remain closed, and many of the girls’ parents maintain a strong preference for their daughters to marry or take on some form of labor. Keeping the girls consistently committed to their education faces numerous and immense obstacles. However, NISHTHA and their stakeholders have been successful in protecting the girls through their commitment to education, as well as through sanitization programs, rallies, protests and one-on-one sessions.
COMING BACK TO SCHOOL WITH AN EQUITABLE APPROACH. The pandemic has affected girls’ education in numerous ways showing the numerous ways in which two years of COVID-19 school closures have been a serious impediment to students’ basic learning. As the pandemic situation has improved in recent months, schools have finally be able to welcome students again. Luckily, the pandemic did not negatively impact the enrollment numbers of students, but on the other hand, their reading skills and general learning have been detrimentally affected.
Even during normal times, students who are behind in their studies often find it difficult to catch up. This is especially true for first-generation learners who usually do not receive support or help from their parents, who have not received any education themselves. This situation can vastly improve, however, if the student receives extra attention from the teacher. This, of course, can prove to be a dilemma of how the teacher can spread attention equitably over the class so that all students can receive the teaching they need. Mitigating the effects of COVID setbacks for an entire generation of students is paramount, and can be addressed through quick identification of students who need extra help, and through simple, individualized, and specific lessons. Students who are struggling with their progress are prioritized quickly so that teachers can step in as soon as possible.
YGB and NISHTHA remain committed to uplifting girls and women through formal and community education, and to protecting them from trafficking, abuse, and torture. Come back here for more updates on our SHE and other critical programs!