In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11th to be the International Day of the Girl  “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

At Ripple Effect Images we believe that the single most important gift that can be given to girls around the world is an education.  Educated girls in the developing world marry an average of 4 years later, have fewer children and far better self-esteem.  They are less likely to be victims of abuse and more likely to be leaders in their communities.  Imagine what this could mean for our shared future.

Ripple Effect Images’ mission is to document the potential of, and the programs that are empowering women and girls in the developing world. In just five years Ripple has created 25 films, a photo archive of 15,000 images, and we have helped our aid beneficiaries raise more than a million dollars using powerful story-telling tools.

To celebrate the 2015 International Day of the Girl, we are happy to introduce you to girls whose lives have been lifted through the work of our aid beneficiaries.

Meet Kajal

There are legions of child waste pickers in and around Delhi. If you go there on certain days in the afternoon you might see a girl named Kajal. She appears as a child, is the height and weight of a child, and even laughs like a carefree child. But this slender 12 year old with blue rag ribbons in her hair has seen, smelled and survived more than most adults. Working the pile of garbage since she was 8, Kajal is determined to set herself apart from the crowd. Never mind that she may be scarred by uncovering dead bodies while sifting through the steaming refuse of the city. Forget the fact that she knew two other children who were run over by a bulldozer one night on the pile. Ignore the daily reality of her father, a drunkard who inspires her to become a police officer so she can put all such men in prison...Erase that Kajal for she is determined to reinvent herself. She will not share her last name, her trust is reserved for only a few, among them Akshey, her best friend and a hard working young man. ..Both the kids live in Ghazipur outside Delhi, never more than a breath from the landfill. She travels the rat paths from home to the ?pile?, sometimes stopping long enough to help her mother do piece work for the family's survival. When she is not home she is either hiding from her father or in her beloved refuge?the Informal School started by Chintan for all the children of waste pickers 80% of whom are pickers themselves. ..The classrooms sit directly above 50 milk cows, their sounds and odors fill the learning spaces that would read as grimy and dark had they not been cheered by children's art and a well used computer. Chintan has committed to getting children out of the landfill and this warren of rooms at the edge of the neighborhood is the first step.  ..Kajal is surrounded by her teachers?Suman Singh, Usha Kumari, Jyoti Kukreja, Manju Devi.  They have read her spirit. They believe in her and so have worked hard to prepare her for the local public school. ..Whe

Legions of child waste-pickers scour the mountainous landfills of New Delhi, India. Until recently, Kajal was one of them. This slender 12-year-old with blue rag ribbons in her hair has seen, smelled and survived more than most adults.

Working in a sea of garbage since age 8, Kajal never dreamed that she could one day attend school.  Ripple aid beneficiary Chintan has rocked her young world, starting an informal school for the children of waste-pickers to get them out of the landfill and on to a better future.  There, Kajal is surrounded by her teachers, who tend her spirit as they teach her the basics that will prepare her to enter public school.

Photo by Lynn Johnson/Ripple Effect Images

Meet Roda:

Nairobi. School. Slum. Education. Youth. Empowerment. Church World Service also implemented a 4K (like American 4H) program at the school. Since many of the children at the school were raised in rural areas, they came equipped with agrarian skills. The 4H program sets an example of encouraging family skills and values, as opposed to abandoning them. This acts as a big relief to the parents. The program enables the kids to raise animals ranging from bunnies to roosters to hens. Caring for these animals and completing the associated tasks, such as collecting eggs, provides the kids with a sense of responsibility and leadership. Pictured here is Roda Mwembe (10), the youngest child in Grade 4.

10-year-old Roda Mwembe lives in one of the most dangerous slums in Nairobi, Kenya.  But when Church World Service worked to rebuild the local primary school, Roda’s world changed.  She is now the youngest student in Grade 4 at her primary school.  Like so many slum dwellers around the world, Roda’s family was displaced from their rural lifestyle due to climate change. But at this school, she is part of the 4H program and takes special pride in the chickens she has learned to care for, the chicks she raises and the eggs she is able to bring home to her family. Surely every Roda deserves such a chance.

Photo: Annie Griffiths/Ripple Effect Images

Meet Precti:

So many girls have not had the opportunity to enter the Padada Pardadi system. Only a ten minute walk outside the walls of Sam Singh's family estate is another family Signh with daughters divided. Two go to PP and one, Kavita, 17, the eldest, who stays home. Precti, is in 8th grade at PP (standing in class) and Geeta (photographed with her elder sister) in 4th grade at a PP satellite school for younger girls. Kavita spent the morning making tea and dung patties for fuel, cutting vegetables with her Aunt Chandravati (sitting on the bed with her pipe). Even though her sisters help her with evening chores she expressed sadness at not having the opportunity to go to school.

Precti Singh proudly answers questions in her secondary school class in rural India. Precti and her sisters know that they are extremely lucky to attend secondary school in a region where families had traditionally placed little value on educating their daughters.

Ripple partner Pardada Pardadi came up with an innovative solution: For each day a girl attends school, 10 rupees is deposited to a bank account that will become hers when she graduates. This incentive program has resulted in a dynamic girls’ school with a 100% graduation rate.

Photo: Lynn Johnson/Ripple Effect Images

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