- Shivangi Sharma
COVID-19 pandemic with all its challenges has hit hard on children’s education, especially girls. With persisting gender inequality and increasing poverty, upto 10 million girls are at risk of dropping out of school because of the pandemic. RTE Forum in their policy brief earlier this year notes that with 1.6 million girls aged 11 to 14 years currently out of school, the pandemic could disproportionally impact girls further by putting them at risk of early marriage, early pregnancy, poverty, trafficking and violence. In light of these concerns, Room to Read and International NGO in collaboration with Chhattisgarh government is running a campaign called “Har Kadam Beti ke Sang, Leadership ki Tarang 2021” focused to bring out powerful leadership stories of girls and their families and caregivers to demonstrate resilience and leadership, despite all the challenges that have come and may come.
Room to Read is an International NGO that believes that world change starts with educated children and based on that belief, they collaborate with communities, organisations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and support girls to complete secondary school with relevant life skills to succeed in schools and beyond. In this national level campaign to improve Girl’s Education, Room to Read has designed an array of life skills materials that has been launched by School Education Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr. Premsai Tekram as a part of the Covid-19 outreach program and commitment towards girls’ education.
“I urge girls to take a vow to study with all their heart, to never let anything stop them, and to become leaders in their communities. Let us come together to help our girls. Har Kadam Beti Ke Sang Leadership Ki Tarang”, said school education minister Dr Premsai Tekam, reported by Times of India.
The campaign has brought to light powerful leadership stories of girls and their families who overcame all the hardships brought by Covid. As reported by Times of India, Geeta, a bright and diligent student of 10th standard, who lost her father to the coronavirus. She always aspired to be a doctor and serve the people in the best of her capacities for which she has always been participative in health related initiatives in her village. The loss that Geeta and her family bore was irreplaceable. Yet, Geeta had to toughen her shoulders to bear the responsibility of her mother and little ones in her family. With time, Geeta and her mother joined the Anganwadi workers to spread awareness about the virus. Geeta and her mother strived hard so that nobody had to bear the loss due to Covid-19. Geeta also started stitching masks and distributing them among children in her village. Besides, she now lives to study and work hard, for herself and for her father, who till his last breath cared about every student’s education as much as he cared about his own daughter’s.
Another such inspiring story is of Chitralekha hailing from a small village in Chhattisgarh. The very day that Chitralekha turned 16, her life saw a downfall from the very moment the mother uttered the words, “marriage”. A myriad of obnoxious feelings took over, her dreams, her aspirations; all of them came crumbling down to nothing. Chitralekha stood tall and with the support of her brother and the R2R India team ensured that the marriage was called off and she continued to pursue her education. This campaign intends to reach out to all vulnerable girls like Chitralekha.
The state-wide campaign is targeted at 15,881 girls residing in 179 government girls’ residential institutions including Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Ashram Shalas and Porta Cabins in all the 28 districts under Project Vijayi. Project Vijayi was started by Room to Read in year 2018 with partnership of Education Department and Tribal Welfare Department of State of Chhattisgarh which is a life skill program. In this Project, one Warden and one Teacher from residential institutions got trained and they deliver quality Life Skill Sessions with girls from grade six to eight. In addition, 2,504 girls from 13 non-residential government schools in two districts Raipur and Dhamtari will get benefitted from various online reading materials, circulars, take care cards and e-magazines. The campaign intends to negate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic that has severely impacted the education system across India especially the lives of young adolescent girls beyond their education too. It intends to empower the girls with education and life skills to help them lead a better life without the fear of being married off or making them vulnerable to poverty.