Madhu (name changed), an 18-year-old girl from a semi-urban town in Maharashtra, is the daughter of a single mother, and living with maternal grandparents. Her mother is a daily wage worker, and struggles to meet the growing financial needs of the family. Despite the struggles, the mother is supportive of Madhu’s pursuit in education and is encouraging of her career aspiration. The Monthly Bursary from the Lakshyavati project has supported Madhu through three crucial years of her journey from middle and high school, and helped her stay in school. Madhu wants to be a nurse, and is now preparing for the entrance examination. In her words, “My mother would not have been able to keep me in school if we didn’t receive the Bursary, especially during the pandemic when times were even tougher than they normally are. I was able to purchase a smart phone on an instalment plan which allowed me to continue with my virtual classes. If it wasn’t for that phone I would have had to drop out by now.”
The pandemic and the related crisis amplified the inhibitors for adolescent girl children to continue in their education. These inhibitors are related to challenges in meeting the cost of tuition/school fees, lack of access to gadgets, girl’s increased engagement in household chores and sibling care, and other prohibitive gender norms. As the world slowly emerged from the lockdowns, regular in-person schooling resumed. However, many of these girls were now unable to go back to formal education. Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI), in partnership with Mariam Society, implements the Lakshyavati Project to support adolescent girls from rural India through monthly bursary, mentorship and empowerment workshop initiatives. Over the course of three years since 2019, the project has successfully educated 115 girls in rural Maharashtra, India.
The bursary was more critical than ever during the very difficult months of the pandemic, when most of the girls’ families lost their income.
- Parents leveraged these funds to keep the family afloat, while their daughters continued their education.
- Many children used the bursary to purchase smart phones on monthly payment plans that they used for joining on-line classes, and they continue to use even today.
- For some, the bursary has been able to fund for safe transport which allowed the girls to continue through their high school which are often at a distance from home.
- Most importantly, the continued mentorship and engagement has resulted in the parents and the larger community being supportive of their girls’ education and play a catalytic role in getting their daughters enrolled in high school and not let them drop out of school.
The Lakhshyavati project was designed with the overall goal of “empowering girls from underprivileged backgrounds”. As the project moves onwards, the journey looks to bring together many more such girls, holding up their hopes and dreams for their futures, through opportunities and role models already established within their own community.
“People used to tell my parents to stop sending me to school because they felt it was not worth it, but they now understand the importance of education. Though slowly, but things are changing, however there is still a long way to go.”
Written By: Purna Roy Chowdhury