Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas are central government-run residential schools for the marginalised group, where the rural female literacy is below the national average and the gender gap in literacy is more than the national average.
Struggles that rural adolescent Girls face in pursuing their dreams and in accessing their fundamental right of quality education isn’t something ‘new’- this has been a fight they’ve been fighting for a long. But COVID-19 has further amplified the challenges.
11 Million! -- this is the number of Girls who may not return to school due to the unprecedented disruption in education that we are seeing globally. Without access to support systems and opportunities, they are at increased risk of early and forced marriage, and violence. Anu, 9th, KGBV Punhana, Haryana, India said, “I have a friend who got married during this time”. It is in these challenging times we must ensure that every Girl is able to access support and learning opportunities so that she will be able to return to schools when they reopen. For them, school is more than just a key to a better future. It’s a lifeline.
However, for the Girls, gaining access to support and learning opportunities is not easy. The challenges they face are many.
The digital divide and lack of access to phones/technology still exist in rural communities due to the gender divide. School closures have forced the Girls to take up more gendered work which they previously fought against. Many have started helping their parents at work, giving up their education, and eventually getting married. According to a survey we conducted in 2021, 54% of Girls (112 girls) reported an increase in spending time on household chores since the school closure.
Access to technology and digital devices is a major issue Girls in rural areas face today. Dua, 9th, KGBV Nuh said, “Schoolwork comes on WhatsApp but the phone is with my elder brother. He has a board exam, so I have to reduce my time on schoolwork”. 78.9% of Girls reported that it is the boys/fathers at their home who mostly get to use mobile phones and even when they are allowed to access technology and a majority admitted it was for a maximum of 30 minutes only.
74.4% of Girls are most afraid of staying out or behind in education or losing touch and 13% are afraid of getting married during this pandemic. Needless to say, support from the parents is low, and because there is a lack of awareness around the importance of education, they give more priority to marriage.
While these barriers exist, what we are seeing is that these are not stopping the Girls from accessing opportunities that they feel are important for them. We are seeing Girls actively negotiating! They are requesting for their classes to be conducted at different times to attend them; they are negotiating with their siblings and parents to gain their support. It is their motivation, interest, and choice that are enabling them to take initiative if opportunities are available to continue education.
Given, SwaTaleem has been working with 900 Girls over the last 2 years, we are initiating programs that ensure both support and learning continuity for them. During this pandemic period, maintaining continuity in education is very important as there is a high chance of dropouts among girls. On one hand, there is the possibility of an upcoming third wave and uncertainty on how and when full-fledged schools would roll out. On the other hand, schools opened partially, 2 out of 5 KGBVs opened hostels, a few girls are day scholars while others are in hostels. So, in any case, the digital device is a necessity in today’s education and beyond it for our Girls. While there are also other support areas where SwaTaleem works that need support and continuity. As we open schools partially, we need to focus on the Teacher Professional Development program, Women Leadership program, and Parental Engagement program as well.
What we are doing
By listening to the Girls, understanding their everyday challenges and needs, we have initiated 3 programs to ensure they have access to the support they deserve. Our initiatives address specific and nuanced challenges and needs of adolescent girls through a combination of programs in addition to a system-based approach to support girls to reach maximum potential and fulfill their dreams.
- Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS): This automated telephone system technology interacts directly with Girls and shares mapped stories on concepts in six main areas: English, Science, Maths, Hindi, Reproductive Health, and socio-emotional skills.
- Digital Engagement Program: This program engages 502 girls in 6th-9th classes through in-depth sessions on Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking, Well-being, Life Skills, Role Model sessions, Career Counselling, Gender, and School subjects like Mathematics, Science, etc.
- Parental Engagement Program: Since parents are the key decision-makers for adolescent Girls, we constantly engage with them to involve them more in their daughters’ education. Calls are conducted with parents every week for giving updates about girls and to get updates about their performance, and check if there are any difficulties in engaging in any of the programs.
- Schools run because of committed and competent teachers! That’s why we design and facilitate contextually relevant sessions to build the emotional and educational capacity of teachers, especially during COVID-19, to engage with Girls.
- Government Support & Alignment: By collecting evidence & data, and through advocacy, we liaise with the government to address the gaps at the policy level to advance goals of gender justice. Our partnership enables better accountability and effective support for government program implementation at the ground level.
Your Support towards a Better World for Girls
This year, as we work to get the Girls back to school, increase enrollment and minimize dropouts, reduce the digital gap, ensure continuity of education, and SCALE to the entire state, we need your support.
Together we can ensure continued, in-depth engagement with the Girls who, if not supported, are at risk of never returning to school, or losing an opportunity to get educated.
Let us make a choice today.
Let us choose to stand together with the Girls.
Your donation will help us support and engage with our Girls, their Parents, Teachers, and the Schools as a whole!
- By contributing INR 600 / USD 10 you will be able to support engagement with 1 school for a quarter
- By contributing INR 1000 / USD 15 you will be able to support the training of 5 teachers for 6months
- By contributing INR 1500 / USD 20 you will be able to serve 3 Girls for 1 year
- By contributing INR 6000 / USD 85 you will be able to support training for 15 teachers
- By contributing INR 10,000 / USD 150 you will be able to support engagement with 4 schools for 1 year
*The names of the Girls and schools have been changed in the quotes to protect their identity
Experiences of our Volunteers | Gender, Constitutional Values and Inequities in Education