“Nothing uplifts a society more than the education of its girls. When women are educated, family health and well-being is improved, family size is controlled, economic prospects are enhanced. Everyone gains. The benefit spreads from the family unit to neighbours, and ultimately touches an entire community.” – Hands in Outreach
Today marks the second annual International Day of the Girl Child. This is a day to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. The theme for 2013 is “Innovating for Girls’ Education”, something that The ISIS Foundation, in partnership with Hands in Outreach (HIO) strive to do. HIO are a small non-profit organisation working to break the cycle of poverty by helping children from severely disadvantaged, underprivileged families in Kathmandu to attend school. HIO aims especially help to redress the huge gender disparity in education by providing education to girls. This is crucial in a country where more than half of women are illiterate. Marital customs, gender roles and poverty are among the reasons that many parents educate sons over daughters. Although there has been much improvement in the last few years schooling for girls is still an area in huge need of assistance, especially amongst low socioeconomic or rural groups.
HIO have also focussed on providing basic or functional literacy to mothers to help them understand the benefit of education for their daughters. Schooling may otherwise seem a waste, as it keeps girls from becoming wage-earners as young as possible. Providing the mother with literacy shows her the kind of benefit that can accrue to the entire family, demonstrating that even simple schooling can unlock the door to a life of less helplessness and more opportunity.
The ISIS Foundation is proud to have partnered with HIO for many years to improve educational outcomes for girls. We are pleased to share the story of a mother and her daughters who have benefited from this partnership.
Fighting for a Brighter Future
HIO came to know the Urau family about three years ago and chose to sponsor their two children, Anahita and Bharti.
Urau families are not common in Kathmandu. They come from a small indigenous minority group of people who live in the Terai region of Nepal, on the southern border with India. They are considered to be Dalit, a low caste group. Discrimination against any ethnic group is illegal but in practical terms the Urau people are treated with great prejudice. Very little opportunities are offered to them to take part in social life or political movements and it is not considered acceptable for them to attend school. Consequently, many of the Urau community, particularly women, are illiterate. Many Urau people are forced into bonded labour, which is also an illegal practice but still prevails in the Terai region of the country.
Before Devangi came to Kathmandu, she worked as a domestic housemaid in Terai. When she was fifteen, for a whole month of work in the fields, she was paid less than one dollar. Umesh, now her husband, came up to her one day and said that people in Kathmandu make one dollar a day! Devangi decided to go with Umesh to Kathmandu, almost 15 years ago, and has lived there ever since.
In Kathmandu, Umesh sorts rusty steel for a local factory. Devangi does many kinds of work including hauling bricks on construction sites, being a domestic helper and, selling fruit and vegetables as a street vendor. Their combined earnings of about $100 per month are just enough to feed their family and buy the few necessities the children need for school. Being illiterate, Devangi found that many people cheated her when buying fruit and vegetables from her on the street. This gave her the inspiration to learn to read and write.
Her wish came true, two years ago when we (HIO) conducted the mother’s literacy class at the LMV School, Devangi became a regular attendee. Recently, she decided to enrol in an all-Women’s School where she takes classes early in the morning from 6:00am to 9:30am. She is learning to read Nepali and English along with basic maths, so that in the future no one can cheat her while operating her business. She is enjoying her lessons and gets to meet many mothers who were also denied an education as children.
After her morning classes are finished, Devangi returns to the room. Though the room is small, it is a great relief to know that there is a safe place for her family to sleep at night. The roof doesn’t leak and they don’t have to pay rent. She is a very active and concerned mother. Each day she walks her girls to school, about 15 minutes away.
The girls are doing well at school, and Devangi can now provide them with assistance with their homework. She truly understands the value of education for the future of her children.
It’s very admirable to see the strong desire of Devangi to work so hard for her family. Seeing the very harsh conditions of her life, it is inspirational to see the role she takes as a mother, a student and a very hard working person to hold her family together.