Encouraging Girls to Take on the World through Education Centres in India

Offering girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power – of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to lead.

This is not a luxury. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women establish it as a basic human right. So why is it that despite proving to be a blessing to society the girl child is – in the worst case scenario – killed in the womb, or otherwise allowed to breathe but only the air of negligence, discrimination and deprivation?

Today, we’re not only proud of great women of science like Sunita Williams, or women who’ve acted as agents of change like Sarojini Naidu, or  women who’ve taught us what it means to be human like Mother Teresa, but we also encourage such people to come forward and reform our world. Why is it that even though we claim to be the biggest democracy in the world we simply cannot destroy the deep-rooted stereotypes against women, and particularly women’s education?

Azad India Foundation was formed by an idea and the will to make lives of underprivileged girls better. We have set up our organisation in one of the least literate districts in Bihar -with a literacy rate of only 46% – to provide the people of this area with equal opportunities as the rest of the country. Through our work we’ve tried to touch the lives of as many girls as we can and to enable them to take on the world by themselves. We want them to be independent, able to break the constraints of society, and be themselves.

Through Azad India Foundation we spread a message of love, equality and empowerment. We realise that even today, little girls are denied an education, potential members of the female workforce are denied a job and employed women are denied recognition.

thumb_img_1808_1024
Photo Credit: Azad India Foundation 

We seek to bring about change through our Girl Child Learning Centres. This program was started in 2010 with the support of IIMPACT Gurgaon under the guidance of Mrs Yuman Hussain. The focus of the program is to bring back non-schoolgoing girls and dropouts aged between 6-14 from the most remote villages in the district to the folds of education and it’s aim is to act as a bridge between nonformal educaton and government schooling.

We are currently working in over 35 villages in Kishanganj district with about 1050 girls. We provide primary education and health and hygiene classes to these girls and then we mainstream them to the formal schools. Our teaching is done through play-way methods and teachers use visual aids and teaching learning materials including bamboo sticks, small pebbles, cards, chart papers and pictures. The students also contribute to making the teaching learning materials and other crafts in the classroom.

We conduct regular competency level tests at our Learning Centers where the knowledge levels of the students are assessed through written and oral tests. This helps in assessing the weak students and giving them remedial classes.

The teachers are women from the same communities as the girls themselves. We decided to hire these women because only they can understand the hardships many of the girls they teach are going through. The teachers are given regular training sessions and are made to attend workshops at regular intervals for their own development. We now have a team of excellent teachers who are determined to provide quality education to these girls. After seeing the determination of the girls to learn we decided to open around 20 libraries with age appropriate books to provide them with more reading material. We want nothing to hold them back and have done everything in our capacity to bring a smile to their faces.

The force which drives us to make efforts to improve the lives of these girls? It is the happiness we see on their faces. Their success make us feel proud of being associated with them.

The Power of the Adolescent Girl

When the Millennium Development Goals were implemented in 2000, Naw Cynthia was an adolescent girl striving for an education with little support from her family, her country of Myanmar, or the world at large.  Today, as global leaders recently met for the United Nations General Assembly to establish new goals for 2016, the face of this agenda is an adolescent girl – a girl in school, safe, not married off, and able to aspire to follow her dreams.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th is ‘the power of the adolescent girl’.  Global communities are being called upon to commit to critical investments in quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership.

The world recently witnessed the courage and power of an adolescent Pakistani girl, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafazi, who fought the Taliban for her right to attend school.  Malala’s story, detailed in her book I Am Malala and her upcoming documentary, He Named Me Malala, is an inspiration for girls all around the world.

However, it is not an easy journey for adolescent girls.  Naw Cynthia was one of five children with an absent father and a mother driven to beat her children.  As a young girl, Naw Cynthia was sexually abused by her neighbor.  These abuses seriously impacted her confidence. Yet she was determined to rise above her childhood and stand tall.  She knew that a good education would be her liberator.

Now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar, Naw Cynthia is working to give today’s adolescent girls a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Naw Cynthia readily shares her story with adolescent girls because she wants them to be strong and to not compromise their dreams.  She tells Burmese girls “You are NOT weak.  You are strong.  Do NOT let others look down on you.  And do NOT tolerate any form of abuse or harassment.”

Like so many women who juggle multiple responsibilities, Naw Cynthia worries she is not a good mother or a good leader or a good wife.  We believe she is an outstanding role model for girls and boys.  Naw Cynthia will teach her son to treat girls with respect and to value their contribution in the world.

Girls need inspirational role models like Naw Cynthia and Malala.   With approval from Malala Foundation, Educational Empowerment is translating I Am Malala into Burmese.  Soon it will be published in Yangon so Burmese girls can read Malala’s powerful story. Educational Empowerment is proud to be an advocate for girls’ rights at this pivotal time in history.  Girls need to know they have rights and how to access them.  Let’s all celebrate the power of the adolescent girl.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook at EE, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

Women Inspire: Self Reliance through Education

Written by Melody Mociulski, Founder, Educational Empowerment

Having just returned from 3+ weeks in Myanmar, I am struck by the numerous instances I witnessed of girls and women empowered by education – all resulting in their increased independence, self-confidence, and self-reliance.

In today’s world of injustices, human rights abuses, and violence, it was uplifting to learn of positive outcomes and the power of the human spirit.  During my visits with Educational Empowerment’s (EE) partners, I interviewed numerous women and girls to learn of their life struggles, dreams, and thoughts on education. It was saddening to hear their stories of trauma created by poverty, sexual assault, natural disasters, and violence.  Yet, it was extremely inspiring to see how education has helped them to overcome these tragedies and to prevail.

Naw Cynthia, one of EE’s partners, told me of the physical and sexual abuse she endured during her childhood.  She always knew that education would be her liberator.  Cynthia is now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar.  She shares her story with adolescent girls to give them a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Cho Cho, a Burmese friend, told me about the impacts of poverty on her childhood and how she escaped from it.  She was taught by her parents that education was the most important way to escape poverty. Every June when school started in Myanmar, her family skipped meals. They only ate broken rice which is cheaper than regular rice or boiled water grass leaves if they couldn’t afford the broken rice. This was their way to save money for school fees for seven children. Cho Cho and her sister only had one pair of shoes between them.  Her sister (in the seventh standard and now a doctor) would wear the shoes to school in the evening. Cho Cho (in the fourth standard and now a finance supervisor) would wear the shoes to school in the afternoon.   Now, all are seven siblings are successful professionals who work full-time jobs and dedicate their remaining time and income to supporting education for less fortunate Burmese. Like their parents said, they escaped poverty through education. Cho Cho values education because it enabled her to change her whole life.  She wishes that all people, especially youth, learn the value of education.

Daw Khin Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Daw Khin
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Daw Khin Nwe Oo, a tall, statuesque mom of six, sells sticky rice snacks in her village.  As part of our microfinance project, she receives financial and business management training.  Quick to smile and laugh, her business does extremely well, enabling her two youngest daughters to remain in school.  Education is important to Daw Khin.  Because of health problems when she was a child, she wasn’t able to finish primary school.  She wants her children to have good jobs, success, and respect.  Daw Khin emanates pride in her business accomplishments and enthusiasm to become even more successful.

Girls attending high school in the remote Yay Kyaw Toe village in the southern Delta all survived the devastating destruction of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.  They board at the high school and dedicate long days and nights to achieving high scores on their annual exams, learning critical thinking, mastering the English language, and actively practicing their Buddhism.  They know that their future dreams and lives outside the Delta depend on education.

All of these girls and women touched my heart.  They impressed me with their positive, hopeful attitudes, their resilience in the face of adversity, their confidence, and their self-reliance.  They embody the belief that teaching a girl can change the world.

Stay tuned for more news of Naw Cynthia, Cho Cho, Daw Khin, and other amazing Burmese girls and women in my upcoming series in Women Inspire.

Join me in the campaign to ensure all girls receive quality education and develop self-reliance.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

 

Education: Girls’ Beacon of Hope

Delta Students Read EE's Folktale Books  Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta
Delta Students Read EE’s Folktale Books
Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta

Written by Melody Mociulski, Chair and Founder of Educational Empowerment

Girls around the world today are struggling to achieve their basic human rights – protection from forced labor, early marriage, conflict, and sex slavery; access to education; prevention of needless death from pregnancy and childbirth; freedom to determine for themselves their life path.

In the face of these ongoing and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, natural disasters add yet one more barrier for them to overcome.

On Friday May 2nd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis, the 8th worst cyclone ever recorded, hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar.  Approximately 150,000 people were killed, and 20,000 girls and boys were orphaned.

Villagers were starting their day as usual when all of a sudden the wind whipped up the river and the water began to rise.  Trees and houses crashed down and floated away.  Families were separated.  Darkness came.  Although crying of children and animals could be heard, no one could see anything.  The water kept creeping up.  In the morning, all was mud and destruction. Children tried to find their families and make sense of this nightmare.

Nargis destroyed 60% of the schools in the Delta.  And those left standing had no usable sanitation facilities, furniture, or classroom materials. Rebuilding schools and restoring the formal education system in the aftermath of a disaster are crucial to help girls in disaster-stricken communities regain a sense of normalcy and security, and obtain the psychosocial support needed to overcome such a traumatic experience.

Since 2008 post-cyclone reconstruction has been slow, hampered by near impossible logistical access and lack of electricity and fresh water.  Parents in the Delta understand the importance of education, and they readily relocate to a village that has a school.  The most effective way to address society’s costs for future hazards is to invest in expanding the knowledge of girls and boys. Without an education, girls in the Delta are doomed to a continued life of extreme poverty.

In partnership with a local non-profit organization, Educational Empowerment is building a primary school in the Delta to empower Burmese girls through education. During a trip to Myanmar in January, I will attend the school’s dedication celebration.  I am excited to hear stories first hand from girls who survived the cyclone and now have a chance to learn to read and receive an education – their beacon of hope for the future.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls’ Globe in the conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.

Conflict and Displacement: Impact on Girls’ Education

Halockhani IDP Camp  Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Halockhani IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Can you imagine living as a refugee – or as a stateless person with no nationality?  Camps overflow with cramped quarters, no privacy, insufficient latrines, and scarce school options.  Girls are tasked with gathering firewood. They easily become prey for assault when venturing out at dawn to gather wood.

The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced and stateless people worldwide has, for the first time since World War II, exceeded 50 million people.  80% are women and children.

Failure to resolve and prevent conflict is the number one cause of this displacement.  And it’s the primary barrier preventing children – especially girls – from realizing their right to education.

Myanmar has been immersed in civil wars and conflict since the 1960’s. At that time the military junta enacted the Four Cuts policy, consisting of “attacking villages, forcing ethnic villagers to move into heavily controlled relocation sites, destroying their homes and crops, and planting landmines in their former villages and farms to prevent their return”.

Impacts on displaced children are severe – increased risk of human rights abuses, instability, detachment, chronic health and emotional problems, and lack of access to education.  To reach schools, children are forced to cross potential land mined areas.  Girls are at high risk of sexual assault, and twice as likely as boys to drop out of school.

Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Education is essential to fostering peace, reducing poverty, and increasing gender equality. Schools can provide life-saving information, such as landmine awareness and HIV and pregnancy prevention guidance.

Education instills hope – hope for safety – hope for food – hope for school.  Hope is the little voice you hear whisper maybe – when it seems the entire world is shouting no.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys, especially those living in conflict areas, have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Advocate for inclusion of women in conflict resolution and reconstruction efforts.
  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Hidden Price of a Girl’s Education

Fifteen year old Aye Sander lives in the Buddhist nunnery, Chanthar Aung Nunnery School, in the poor outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.  An avid reader, she is receiving a quality education.  Unlike girls her age attending government schools which teach rote memorization, Aye Sander is learning critical thinking – how to identify, assess, and solve problems – an immeasurable life skill.

350 girls attend Chanthar Aung Nunnery School and forty orphans, like Aye Sander, live there.  With seven classrooms and eleven teachers, the school is overcrowded.  A new building stands nearby, half finished, without funding to complete the roof and flooring.  All their food is cooked over wood fires. Only one of the buildings has electricity.

The school depends primarily on donations.  Novices walk through the village twice a month asking for rice and donations.  It is always a struggle to make ends meet and is made more frustrating by the fact that monks are allowed to ask for food on a daily basis.

The head nun, a lovely and gracious woman, cares deeply for all the girls in her care.  When asked what her greatest challenge is, she said it is to feed the 40 girls who live there.

Aye Sander and her two younger sisters have lived at Chanthar Aung Nunnery School since she was three years old.  Unfortunately, her story is not unusual.  Born in the ethnic Shan state, Aye Sander’s parents divorced when their small business failed.  Unable to support the 3 girls on her own, her mother sent them away to Yangon to live and receive an education. This is the hidden cost of Aye Sander’s education.

However, Aye Sander is fortunate to be receiving an education.  Only half of Burmese girls complete primary school, and the majority of those girls do not learn critical thinking.

Education is critical to escape chronic poverty, which is wide spread in Myanmar. For some, poverty is transitory. However, the more vulnerable remain poor for long periods – even all their lives – passing on their poverty to their children.

The United Nations General Assembly convened last month in New York to create Sustainable Development Goals that will “pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off, fill in the gaps and take us to the next level”.  Whether the goals target poverty reduction, gender equality, health, the environment, or other sustainable issues facing today’s world, education is the common denominator to the goal’s success.  The world is starting to acknowledge the power of education – especially the impact created by educated women and girls.  Yet, there is often a hidden price for that education, as experienced by Aye Sander.

Help girls attain their right to education. To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Join us in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.