India is a country on the rise. With a population of over 1 billion and increasing attention being given to girl's and women's empowerment movements, it is easy to feel optimistic about its future. Initiatives like Girl Rising and Let Girls Learn are taking root in India, helping to push the focus and ultimate goal for girl children away from marriage and toward joining the workforce.
When it comes to education, one of India's most pressing issues is teacher absenteeism. Once regarded as a noble profession, lack of infrastructure and oversight in schools has led to little or no accountability for teachers to show up to class. This, coupled with India's rapidly growing population, makes it difficult for many children to attain academic achievement.
India is home to 243 million adolescents, and 20% of the world’s total adolescent population. Yet the status of girls in India, especially those from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, is in a dismal state. According to Dasra, it is estimated that for every 100 girls that enroll in schools in rural India, 40 will reach grade four, 18 will reach grade eight, 9 will reach grade ten, and only 1 will make it to grade twelve.
Furthermore, in the district of Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, surrounding the Milaan School, a startling 63 percent of girls drop out after class 8.
While for boys, adolescence might mean greater possibilities and a broadening world, for girls it means greater limitations. Adolescent girls, especially from socially and economically disadvantaged communities, spend less time in school than boys, perform a disproportionate share of domestic work, have restricted mobility, and have very few acceptable and safe public spaces for recreation.
The Girl Icon Fellowship program recognizes outstanding change-makers who seek to make a difference in their communities. It has been specifically designed for adolescent girls in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – two of India’s most populated states ranked lowest on the Human Development Index. Milaan currently works with 100 Girl Icon Fellows across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh who—in turn—work with over 2,000 adolescent girls as a part of their peer group. In 2018, Milaan plans to expand the program to 500 fellows, working with over 10,000 adolescent girls in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. PaperSeed is working with Milaan to develop a curriculum for the Girl Icons program, which will be piloted with the existing batch of the Girl Icons and their peer groups, and further will be used to directly work with the new batch of 500 Girl Icon fellows and their peer groups, thus creating an exponential impact on their overall development.
GIRL RISING INDIA
Growing up in India as a girl has never been easy. India ranks 129 out of 146 countries on the gender inequality index, and discrimination starts early on. Often losing out to their male siblings, girls have 75% less chances off survival within the first five years of life; one third of child brides (girls married under the age of 18, some as young as 6 years old) are from India. In school, 41.34% of girls do not make it to class 8, and nine out of ten girls enrolled do not complete secondary school.
The perception of girls’ primary role being that of wife, caretaker, mother-in-waiting leads to unequal and inadequate resource investment on the part of parents and families and unequal treatment by teachers, thereby seldom allowing them to reach their full potential. Educators often endorse cultural gender stereotypes (e.g., math is easier for boys than girls) and prejudices. What’s particularly challenging is that these barriers are often deeply rooted in the way that families, communities, teachers and even girls themselves value girls’ education.
Girl Rising is an international movement that started in the United States and has led to the creation of Girl Rising movements in other countries. It is a film that personalizes stories that barriers girls’ face to education using celebrity voice-overs and creates a movement for social change. PaperSeed is partnering with Girl Rising India to implement a comprehensive multimedia module in schools to teach and sensitize students, teachers, and parents about gender roles/stereotypes, and to encourage them to challenge these norms. The stories and activities they engage with will aim to make the issues personal and engaging: helping teachers, students, and parents better identify the issues, understand the role each plays in upholding/dismantling gender stereotypes, and how each can take action in their community.
Going to School
In India, secondary schools are the last frontier for equipping millions of children with the skills they need to transform their lives. But, children are not learning the skills they need to create a job or get a job after school, and 50% of children enrolled drop out by Grade 10. The Government of India estimates 109.73 million additional skilled workers will be required across 24 sectors by 2022.
Be! Schools is a program designed to teach entrepreneurial skills to government school children [Grade 8, 9 & 10] and empower them to solve local problems using sustainable enterprises supported by a Going to School fund called “Be! Fund”. The program introduces these skills through an interactive storytelling approach that includes an in-school reading session, combined with activities, games and projects that reinforce the skills learnt through the reading sessions. Going to School has already developed well-researched storybooks using the Human Centered Design (HCD) approach to teach these skills. Each book tells a story that inspires students to become successful changemakers.
We have partnered with Going to School to support vital teacher trainings and print skill books, which will introduce 21st century skills to girls between the ages of 13 and 16 in the state of Jharkhand.