Lifeskills education empowers 5 Lakh girls in Telangana - Times of India

Lifeskills education empowers 5 Lakh girls in Telangana – Times of India

Kavita (name changed), the eldest of the three sisters in her family, was facing pressure from her mother and extended family to get married, while still in standard 12. Kavita’s mother wanted to get her married as her father’s recent demise was putting financial pressure on the family. She wanted to use the money to get Kavita married instead of investing further in her education, but Kavita was adamant to complete her education. Feeling helpless, Kavita reached out to her teachers. The teachers stepped in to support Kavita immediately and were able to successfully convince her mother to let Kavita continue with her education.

Kavita says that she found the courage to stand up against the family pressure because of the ‘Life Skill lessons’ she received as part of the Room to Read’s (RtR) intervention with her school. “It was there, that I gained an understanding of gender issues and built a sense of trust with my teachers and mentor which gave me the confidence to voice my opinion and negotiate with my family”.

Like Kavita, many girls found themselves in similar situations during the pandemic. Triggered by the economic vulnerability brought about by the pandemic, families chose to pull their children, especially girls, out of schools. As per a study of the National Sample Survey Office, reportedly about 321 million Indian children were out of school (India today, 2019) causing huge learning gaps and exposing them to different protection issues. Girls faced higher vulnerability as families viewed educating girls as an added burden. In the context of Telangana, a recent study by CRY (a leading child rights organization in India) found that the occurrence of child marriages has doubled across the surveyed 52 villages. (Source: Child marriages increased in Telangana during Covid: CRY – report )

Looking at these events, Room to Read (RtR) moved ahead to implement a multi-levelled, collaborative approach with the government to prioritize continuity of the adolescent girl’s education and their protection, in the State of Telangana. The strategy for achieving this goal included mobilizing the community to support girls’ education, promoting life skills education, and strengthening support structures for girls to complete their secondary education. To drive mass awareness, in collaboration with the Women Development and Child Welfare Department (WDCW) of Telangana, over 3 lakh posters were distributed in 14,000 villages across 33 districts to raise awareness on the issue of preventing girls from dropping out of school. The public was informed about the increased dropout rate using micro campaigns and a local art form, Kalajatha (maintaining COVID protocols). Alternative media was used to reach remote villages including radio, television, and digital media. With the support of the State government, a collaborative approach was taken to make the issue more visible. 7245 district officials from the 33 districts participated in virtual district meetings. The state-level Virtual Launch Event, on the impact of the pandemic on girls’ education and the challenge of a digital divide, was attended by the honourable J. Srinivas Rao, Chairperson, State Commission for Protection of Child (SCPCR) as chief guest.

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As a means of supporting girls remotely during these times, important life skills education was planned. These programs included developing skills around personal development, financial planning, health and hygiene management and emotional wellbeing. The existing digital divide proved to be a big hindrance in achieving this objective, and radio became handy to overcome this challenge by providing an extensive reach. 32 radio episodes were created and circulated. 10 episodes were produced and broadcasted on local television, through Doordarshan and Private Channel.

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Shruti, a class 8 student of KGBV, Gadwal District, says, “I look forward to these radio programs every day because, with schools closed and lockdown, I don’t get to go anywhere. After helping the family with household chores, there is very little to do to keep myself occupied. The stories in the program are so relatable and give me ideas to deal with similar situations.”

The objective of the scaling up of lifeskills education was to encourage girls to complete their education and resist societal pressure to dropouts and early marriage. Like Kavita and Shruti, many girls in Telangana have benefited from these lessons. As seen from the numbers of adolescent girls reaching out to their teachers and social mobilizers for support during the pandemic, it seems RtR has been able to successfully create an effective supportive network. Teachers and school administration of the 72 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) received capacity-building training to provide the practical support required by the girls, to resist dropout pressure. About 54 ‘model lifeskill centres’ were set up for girls to have a safe space, to discuss the challenges they face. RtR also designed self-learning kits, ‘Lifeskills in a box’, which helped girls continue their education remotely. Through all these approaches, RtR reached 14,000 villages and supported over 5 lakh girls across the state. This extensive project was made possible with the continued support of School Education Department of Telangana.

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Room to Read (RtR) strives to achieve its vision of supporting girls to complete secondary education and have the skills to negotiate key life decisions in the future.

To read more about our programs, head over to our website www.roomtoread.org

Disclaimer: Content Produced by Room to Read




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