Written by: Fonda Sanchez, Founder of Education for Equality International
If we listened to the voices of women and girls, what would we hear?
How would their stories make a difference?
While completing my graduate practicum with an NGO that focuses on increasing primary school enrollment and literacy rates for girls in Rajasthan, India, I had the privilege of meeting a young girl named Rekha. During field visits, I met many teen girls who had completed primary school, but were not enrolled in secondary.
Rekha was fourteen and recently married to a young man a couple years older than her. As is custom for many new brides in India, she went to live with her new husband and his family. Upon arrival into the family, Rekha’s in-laws prohibited her from continuing her education. She did not expect that early marriage would result in lost opportunity. Rekha’s husband had never completed secondary school and therefore her in-laws would not allow her to attend. In other words, as a young girl they did not want Rekha’s education level higher than their son’s.
Rekha was determined to re-enroll and complete secondary school regardless of her in-laws restrictions.
The opportunity to attend secondary school was important to Rekha. She was not concerned about the consequences of pursuing her dreams. Through her story, I saw the reality of many girls around the world. I left India before I learned if Rekha was able to return to school.
After finishing my master’s degree, I thought about returning to India. I began looking through old photographs and reminiscing about the people I had met and learned so much from. I came across Rekha’s photo and thought about her story. I knew she was not alone and that many girls like her are discriminated against on a daily basis simply because they are girls.
Education for Equality International (EEI) was created for and inspired by girls who struggle to achieve their dreams. These girls want to see a better life for themselves and their community, set their own limits and not be limited because of their gender. EEI developed because all girls and women should have the right to pursue an education. Our mission is to increase girls’ access to secondary education in developing countries.
This year EEI plans to implement its first program to support secondary school fees and expenses for 10 girls living in rural village in Maharashtra, India. We partner with a school and have built a strong relationship with the girls and school administration. EEI is in the process of raising funds for this program but the dream does not stop there.
EEI has partnered with a small NGO called Maa Education India (MEI) based in Udaipur, India. Their mission is to provide free primary education to boys and girls from low-income families, living in the rural village of Amod. Together we are developing a program to support secondary education costs for girls to attend a private school in Udaipur because there is no school available to them in their immediate village. EEI is also working with MEI to reach girls who work as cattle and goat herders to increase their literacy and writing skills.
In this work it is important to know the data regarding the plight of girls’ education worldwide, and to acknowledge, and recognize the countless stories for every girl who makes up those numbers. I know I am not alone in this.