When our founder Girish approached his first female sex workers to ask how he could help them they pointed to their children. Resigned to their own fates they wanted better for them, they wanted them to have the education that they had missed out on in the hope that it would give them brighter futures.
India has the highest number of girls out of school, among them are the 75 thousand children from Maharashtra missing from school registers. Comparatively it is one of the best states for education and Maharashtrians, including our beneficiary groups, value education, However, a lack of resources and access means education and training is not an option for many in slum and rural communities where only 15-25% receive 5+ years of schooling and the educational gender gap tops 10%.
Equality in education
From day 1 when Girish started teaching two children, education has been at the heart of what we do to help tackle the major issues facing our society. Therefore, we were proud to #StandwithMalala, the year-long campaign to highlight and tackle gender inequality in education. Through our established education projects, targeted programmes and campaigns we already highlight the importance of education in raising people out of poverty, reducing child trafficking and prostitution and destigmatizing class, disability and gender divides. Our Malala programme of roadshows reached a staggering 27,000 people, including uneducated girls and local leaders in our seven city slums.
These urban slums are breeding grounds for serious social issues like child labour, malnutrition, child marriages, addiction, HIV-AIDS and human trafficking. The children living in them are often exposed to domestic violence, peer pressure and violent community brawls and often lack the attention of parents who are burdened with their own struggles for survival.
Our Balbhavans are community hubs and unique models of social change for 745 children living in these slums. Our staff understand and address the issues and provide solutions. Last year they conducted regular 4,505 home visits and 2,100 school visits to identify and counsel 50 school drop outs to return to education and secured school and college admissions for another 308 pupils. We also provided 130 Snehalaya scholars financial support for education materials and helped two other communities to create their own education centers based on our model. Our interventions are paying off with 93% of last year’s students passing their 12th standard and 79% passing 10th standard exams.
The 134 girls living in our Rehab Center either attend our own or local schools, colleges and after school tuition or are undertaking vocational training. Our English medium school provides education to 202 pupils aged 5 to 16 studying up to 8th standard and integrates our Rehab Center children, whose health issues affect concentration and attendance, with children from our slum and local communities. Last year our Rehab Center children achieved a 100% pass rate for 12th Standard and 80% for 10th standard exams.
We aim to provide our beneficiaries with the education and skills that will help them lead successful independent lives once they leave our care. Many are keen to take up vocational training and we continue to develop the opportunities for them.
With less than 1% of rural households in India owning a home computer with internet access and IT skills a growing and necessary requirement for government and other professions, our IT Center provides computer facilities and training courses. We have been providing subsidised and free computer education to young people from red light districts, slums and rural areas, women in our rescue shelter and people from other lower socio-economic backgrounds since 2009 and many of our graduates are now successfully employed.
Our classes cater to all levels, from the basics of word processing and creating an email account to more specialised courses in photoshop, computer aided design and the state certificate in IT. Over 3,000 people have completed our courses, including last year’s 112 students, 63 of who were female, 81% of whom passed their final exams.
Healthcare delivery is fast becoming one of India’s largest industries - both in terms of revenue and employment - constituting 65 per cent of the overall health market. Our Certificate in Bedside Assistance Nursing Training Course delivers employability-focussed training for healthcare assistants through classroom-based learning complemented with practical teaching in our on-site, 50-bed hospital. Not only are we able to train our own pool of bedside assistants to meet demand in our expanding health projects, we are also providing them the opportunity to maximise their employment prospects in an expanding sector.
Many of our beneficiaries come from farming communities and are forced to seek our support due to drought or economic migration. Our Agricultural Training Center delivers employability-orientated training for farming technicians, creating the next generation of agri-entrepreneurs and professionals able to apply agricultural technology in rural farming communities.
Our Earth Studio provides vocational training at our Rehab Center in a creative and rehabilitative space where beneficiaries can learn and build upon their artistic and commercial skills. While the therapeutic benefits of making the items pays dividends, the work produced is available for sale providing them a small income and the experience in managing budgets, production and marketing.
Our sanitary napkin projects utilises the low-cost technology developed by social entrepreneur, Arunachalam Muruganantham, to produce simple but cost-effective hygiene products. Employing girls from our Rehab Center, we satisfy our beneficiaries need and profits from the sales of surplus to maternity hospitals and the community are deposited as wages into their bank accounts. The girls are also developing skills in small-scale production and the hope is they can set up their own production units in the future.
You can help! It will cost Rs 7,723,000 (US$119,548/UK£92,751) to keep these vital projects operating this year. Donate now to let a women or girl know you support her rights to education empowering her to speak out with #HerVoice.