Educate Girls is a non-profit organization in India that aims to tackle issues at the root cause of gender inequality in India’s education system. Founded in 2007, the non-governmental organization has its management and outreach office in Mumbai and operations in 10 districts across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Since 2007, Educate Girls has worked with over 12,000 government schools, and the introduction of creative learning and teaching techniques in classrooms has consistently shown increased learning outcomes every year. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has reached over 3.8 million total beneficiaries, and enrolled close to 120,000 out-of-school girls in school  Educate Girls was founded by Safeena Husain.
Educate Girls involves and empowers various stakeholders to create a system that promotes and supports girls’ education.
Educate Girls creates community ownership to help communities to prioritize girls' education. The model includes the following elements:
Team Balika consists of over 8000 community volunteers who work as champions for girls’ education and catalysts for school reform. Team Balika members work in the schools as well as village communities spreading awareness on girl child education. They boost enrollment, retention and learning outcomes for all girls. Team Balika is trained in community mobilization & outreach, CLT techniques, leadership, and motivation. They are often between the ages of 18-25 and are among the most educated members of their communities.
'Community - Led' Enrollment Plans
After identifying out-of-school girls in the area, village meetings are organized to prepare community-led enrollment plans. Responsibility is distributed between the village leaders, elders, school administrations, Team Balika (Community Volunteers) and Educate Girls' staff to bring the girls back to school.
School Management Committees
At village meetings, a 12-15 member council is elected for a School Management Committee (SMC). This consists of parents, teachers and village leaders and is responsible for school governance and administrations. Educate Girls trains the SMC and provides them with the support to prepare and execute School Improvement Plans (SIPs) and conduct school assessments
Creative Learning and Teaching Techniques & Classroom Support
Educate Girls trains one teacher per school in Creative Learning & Teaching (CLT) techniques. Tests are conducted before and after training to assess learning levels. Classroom hand-holding support is provided by Educate Girls staff and trained Team Balika. As a result of Educate Girls' CLT interventions, over the past 9 years of operations average learning gains of 25-40% have been achieved.
Creation of Girl Leaders
Educate Girls facilitates the election of Bal Sabhas (Girls' Councils) in every upper primary school. This 13-member council gives girls a leadership position within the school and training in life skills to boost communication, leadership and problem solving skills.
A small local team, led by Safeena Husain, conducted the initial test project in 50 schools of Pali and Jalore districts in Rajasthan. This 50-school project was launched under the umbrella of the Rajasthan Education Initiative (REI).
After successful completion of the test phase, the organization was independently registered in 2007 and won government approval to start a pilot project in 500 schools in 2008, working with 70,000 children in the Bali, Sumerpur and Rani blocks of Pali district with the cooperation and support extended by partners like UNICEF, Pratham Rajasthan, SERVE and Dream Catchers Foundation.[third-party source needed]
Area of work
With community mobilization and sustainability as the guiding parameters, the NGO aims to:
- Enhance enrollment and retention of girls through individual tracking, community mobilization and quality improvement
- Reduce gender disparity in schools and project areas, and improve the level of life skills and competency of the girl child
- Ensure increased participation of children, families and communities in plans and actions for holistic education
- Over 120,000 girls brought back to school
- 90% girls’ enrollment
- 93% girls’ retention
- Over 77,000 active girl leaders
- Over 8,000 active Team Balika members
- Over 500,000 children benefitted from Creative Learning and Teaching techniques
- Launched World’s first DIB (Development Impact Bond) in the education sector with UBS Optimus Foundation and CIFF
Educate Girls has received the following awards:
- DASRA Village Capital Award, 2010
- Karmaveer Puraskar, 2011
- EdelGive Social Innovation Honors, 2011
- Asia 21, Young Leader, 2011
- The World Bank’s India Development Marketplace Award, 2011
- The Rotary’s Anita Parekh Award, 2012
- The CSR Women Leader Award, 2012
- WomenChangeMakers Award, 2012
- British Asian Trust Special Recognition Award, 2013
- Millennium Alliance Award, 2014
- WISE Award for innovation in Education, 2014
- Stars Impact Award 2014
- India's Most Ethical Companies Award 2015
- Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2015 – to Safeena Husain
- Nasscom Foundation Social Innovation Award 2016
- NDTV-L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Award 2016 – to Safeena Husain
- ^Novel project may improve prospects of girl child educationThe Hindu, Jun 26, 2011
- ^Educate Girls: Official Impact Numbers Educate Girls, 2014
- ^When Girls Returned to the Classroom India Today, December 15, 2014
- ^Educate Girls: What We Do
- ^"Team Balika: Champions for girls' education". GlobalGiving.org.
- ^Educate Girls CLT Report 2014-15Educate Girls - Creative Learning and Teaching (CLT)Center for Education Innovations, April 30, 2013
- ^"A Review of the Rajasthan Education Initiative (REI)". EducationInnovations.org.
- ^Rajasthan Education Initiative Government of Rajasthan Official Website
- ^Educate Girls: History
- ^"Education Development Impact Bond". ciff.org. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
- ^"Women of Worth: About the Nominee - Safeena Husain". NDTV.com.
- ^"2014 Wise Awards". Wise-Qatar.org.
- ^webthemez. "India's Most Ethical Companies Conference & Awards". www.worldcsrcongress.com. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
- ^Skoll.org (2015-04-27), Safeena Husain - Educate Girls - 2015 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, retrieved 2016-12-27
- ^"Forbes India Magazine - NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum aims to impact 1 billion lives by 2020". Forbes India. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
- ^"Women of Worth: About the Awardee - Safeena Husain". Women Of Worth. 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
Improving girls' access to education has been on the mainstream development agenda for some time, largely because of the poverty reduction potential that education offers through increasing access to economic opportunity. The long-term positive effects of education for the individual, family and wider society have also been recognised. As a study by the International Center for Research on Women confirms, "women are more likely to control their own destinies and effect change in their own communities when they have higher levels of education".
In addition, education is often seen as one of the main pathways to achieving another key development goal: girls' and women's empowerment. As the International Conference on Population and Development programme of action states: "Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process."
However, experience has shown that the relationship between education and empowerment is not as simple as it may first appear; while education is undoubtedly a key element contributing to empowerment, the two do not necessarily go hand in hand.
Many educational programmes will focus on students' acquisition of formal knowledge and training, and will often equip them with the technical skills necessary to take up paid employment in a specific sector. For adolescent girls, this can mean being formally trained in an activity traditionally seen as "women's work", such as sewing, the small-scale production and commercialisation of food products, artisanal production or secretarial skills for the more literate.
While it is often important that girls receive this vocational training as part of their education, a more holistic approach that places a strong emphasis on enabling girls to develop a wider awareness of themselves and the external context in which they live is also vital. Having the opportunity to develop an awareness of their own social situation, as well as to gain confidence and self-esteem, means not only that girls are in a better position to deal with the multiple challenges that entry into the labour market can pose, but also are increasingly empowered to define and act upon their ambitions.
The importance of developing girls' ability to reflect on their own reality, to develop self-awareness and to build self-esteem has been recognised by the Burkina Faso branch of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (Fawe), an organisation that works to promote gender equality and education across Africa. One of the projects run by Fawe Burkina in Ouagadougou, the resource and training centre, offers training to adolescent girls from underprivileged backgrounds, who generally have a low level of formal education.
At the centre the girls primarily receive training in income-generating activities such as sewing, weaving and soap-making, as well as in non-traditional activities such as plumbing and mechanics. To complement this, they also participate in life skills and awareness-raising workshops, which include children's and women's rights, as well as on reproductive health and – importantly for their chances of being engaged in remunerated activity – basic maths and French language courses.
Earlier this year the manager of the centre, Absétou Lamizana, decided to further expand the life-skills element of the training programme, in response to an increasing recognition of the importance of self-esteem for the personal and professional development of the trainees. She explained: "Lack of ambition, of self-confidence and self-esteem are challenges faced by the girls, and are linked to a deeply-rooted culture of gender inequality and traditional attitudes towards the role of girls and women. This creates an atmosphere in which they have very little confidence in themselves and underestimate their capacities."
A partnership was developed with another local NGO, Génération Butterfly, which designed a workshop series tailored to the situation of the girls enrolled at the centre. Ibrahim Kaboré, the director of Génération Butterfly, noted that the trainees are also deeply affected by their less privileged socio-economic background, viewing themselves as inferior to other adolescents of their age, which results in an inability to value themselves and the products of their work. "Our self-esteem workshops help them to free themselves from their past and think more about what they are going to do today so that tomorrow can be better. Somebody who does not have confidence in themselves cannot easily act to improve their future," he said.
During the workshops another important element was revealed, which can be seen as a misunderstanding about the role of NGOs vis-à-vis the lives of adolescents from less privileged backgrounds. "It became clear that those living in poverty had become accustomed to a culture of receiving free services, which meant that the girls sometimes engaged in training because they felt it was expected of them, rather than because they were personally motivated to change their lives by learning professional skills. They saw their enrolment at the centre as a consequence of being poor, and this was also damaging to their self-esteem."
It is not easy to overcome the effects of a lifetime of poverty and marginalisation. Despite this, Fawe Burkina are committed to working to further develop holistic "life skills" training, which aims to ensure that on completion of the programme trainees are in a stronger position to make informed choices about their lives and act on previously unthinkable ambitions.
While it is important not to lose sight of the huge challenges many will face while trying to become engaged in economic activity, leaving the centre with a reinforced self-belief means they have already overcome a huge hurdle. As a result, they will be better able to control their own destinies and participate more meaningfully in development – an aspiration for the adolescent girls leaving the centre and development practitioners alike, and which is firmly rooted in the notion of empowerment.
Lamizana summed up this approach: "In our view, education must be reinforced by the development of self-esteem to lift girls from the status of inferiority in which society confines them. Similarly, without education and without self-esteem there cannot be empowerment. All of these elements go together."
Abigail Hunt was gender adviser at the Secrétariat permanent des organisations non gouvernementales, an umbrella body of national and international NGOs working in Burkina Faso. She takes up a post at a UK NGO this month and tweets as @abiehunt.
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