24Nov2015

Empowering girls with life skills education

Suvaliya from Raipuri village in Mewat district, Haryana, summoned the courage to voice her problem and put an end to the daily ordeals faced by women and girls in her family: she convinced her father to build a toilet at home. Her mother was highly impressed by her daughter’s move. Asking Suvaliya what gave her the strength to do so, she said, “The Life Skills Education center has given me hope.”

In rural villages like Raipuri, young women lack knowledge and opportunities. This constrains their aspirations. Girls see that women are mostly confined to their homes, carrying out household chores, collecting fodder and water, carrying loads on their heads, and washing clothes at a nearby pond.

Girls and women are very vulnerable due to social realities such as early marriage, early childbearing, low literacy, limited mobility, and minimal public participation in the community or in other productive roles. Suvaliya was headed down a similar path at the added cost of missing school. But things changed when she enrolled at the Life Skills Education center. She said, “My coaching at Life Skills Education center has not just made me a more informed person but has also given me the courage to take corrective actions.”

The Life Skills Education centers instill hope and empower adolescent girls in this crucial period of life that shapes individual personality and future options. The centers, operating in five Mewat villages, namely Gangoli, Marora, Bajhera, Untaka, and Raipuri, offer a six-month course to girls on reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic tailoring. The educational component is important because the female literacy rate in Mewat is only 36.6 percent. Most girls drop out of school after elementary level. Those who manage to reach higher or secondary levels are not able to pass because the quality of their basic education remains poor.  For most of the girls in Mewat, this quashes their education. Their parents will immediately start seeking suitable matches for their daughters. Another adolescent girl from Mewat, Aiza (name changed), who could not pass her secondary school exams, said sadly, “Hamare maa baap ne ek mauka dia tha padhne ka, ab dobara mauka nahi denge aur fees bhi nahi” (My parents gave me an opportunity to study. Now they will not give me another chance or the fees to study again). Many other girls in Mewat have a similar story.

Conversely, Suvaliya has the confidence to dream about her future. She has become more able to express her feelings and is motivated to identify life goals and make plans to achieve them. She has better interpersonal relationships, values, gender roles and relationships, and she is interested in becoming actively involved in her community.

The centers, funded and supported by Mr. Kanti Rustagi, are helping to transform many adolescent lives. More than 140 girls across the four centers will graduate in the coming months with new hope for their futures. Sehgal Foundation thanks donors for supporting this noble cause.