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ChildFund fostering Women Empowerment through Education

By Ms. Neelam Makhijani, Country Director and CEO, ChildFund India | Monday, 30 Jul 2018, 11:38 IST

Women make almost 50% of total population of the world and they play a vital role in contributing to the family, society and community they live in. The concept of women empowerment was first introduced at International Women’s conference in Nairobi in 1985. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) launched in 2015 and to be achieved by 2030, lay emphasis on the importance of women empowerment. Ref: Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, is dedicated to women empowerment.

Education has always been considered a major foundation & catalyst for achieving gender equality and empowerment. ChildFund believes it’s only through education that young children, both girls and boys, can develop into responsible citizens. Education allows children and young adults to make informed decisions about their lives, understand their rights and apply them to achieve their dreams and lead a dignified life. However, the real situation on the ground tells a different story - out of 8.1 million dropout children, in the age group of 6-14 years, it is estimated that around 5 million are girls. Around 70% girls drop out by the time they reach grade nine. States like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha and Jharkhand account for more than 70 per cent of the total dropout girls in the country.

According to Census 2011, in India, the female literacy rate is 65.46% whereas the male literacy rate is over 80%. Though Government of India has launched various schemes to empower girls through education such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya, Mahila Samakhya etc these are yet to demonstrate any impact.

Education and Empowerment are two key components of ChildFund’s 2020 country strategy. For over 3 decades, ChildFund has been investing strategically on breaking barriers and providing opportunities to the larger goal of women empowerment and gender equality. This issue is addressed at all levels – from young girls to women. Under its various program models, ChildFund supports education of both girls and boys, with special provision of life skills. Further, all the education programs implemented by the organization aim at overcoming the social and physical barriers to girl child education, and annually impacting  lives of over 1,50,000  girls across the country.

For improving the status of girls’ education, the organization has rolled out specially designed programs like Udaan and Unmukt which work towards protecting rights of girls, support them to complete their education and emerge as leaders – confident and strong individuals.

UNMUKT –In Jharkhand, 51.8 % of girls are married before the age of 18 years by their parents, seriously jeopardizing health, education, protection and development rights of children.

Hence, to address the issue, to begin with, this project is being implemented in 50 villages of two districts in Jharkhand- Palamu and Deoghar, making difference in the lives of 2000 adolescent girls in the age group of 12-18 years and 30,000 community members in these villages. The project strategy focuses on four important components,

1. Girls Empowerment though sports, legal rights education and life skills

2. Improved retention of girls’ in schools

3. Strengthening community & formal (govt.) protection network

4. Community mobilization and sensitization.

These strategies work together to increase girl’s confidence, self-esteem, and continuity in schools, encourage them to negotiate decisions taken by their parents and create gender sensitive environment in the community that discourages practice of early marriage. The project helps families and girls also get benefitted financially by connecting them with social protection schemes and scholarships. The project aims at improving multi stakeholder coordination by bringing all these stakeholders together to constitute district level coordination body to work together and combat early marriage on ground.

UDAAN- UDAAN is a scholarship program to help youth, especially girls from underprivileged families, attain higher education. Also, helps them have facilities and opportunities to select and pursue career of their choice. It is being implemented in the selected districts of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan, where education is not considered as a priority for girls and forced to get married early.

Through focused interventions like, Career Guidance, Life Skills Education, Academic Support, Scholarship Support and Networking, the project has generated awareness about importance of education for girls and their families; encouraged communities, villages, families to educate their daughters and collaborated with government, technical and professional institutes to provide platforms for targeted youth to achieve higher qualifications.  

Till date the project has supported hundreds of girls pursue higher education and thousands of youth with various life skills and career guidance activities. These skills helped these youth in developing a better understanding of equal gender roles contributing to the empowerment of women.

There are many more initiatives ChildFund is taking towards empowering women through education and skills training, like DAKSH centres – sustainable livelihood centres to support underprivileged youth by providing employability and entrepreneurship training. DAKSH is a distinct youth employment model that combines market-based skills training, entrepreneurship development, financial literacy, and life skills training. More than 6000 youth have been successfully trained under its programs with a placement and entrepreneurship rate of 60 % and 10 % respectively.

The organization also works with women’s groups by helping them develop into Self Help Groups and federations. While working with the communities, women are educated on the skills of decision making, advocating and participating in the various forums at the village level. Many women in the project areas of ChildFund have become vocal leaders in their communities. At present, the organization has trained approximately 50,000 women for active participation in community processes, specially related to education.

Women are an essential part of the society, who can transform and lead their entire communities, let alone their families towards progress if supported properly. You can also contribute to make our efforts towards the same more effective, by contacting us atindiaoffice@childfund.org or office@childfundindia.org

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