How One Woman Is Helping Educate Girls In India
This Women’s Day we spoke to the inspiring Safeena Husain who is paving the way for future generations of women.
Educate Girls is an NGO that was set up in 2007 with the overarching aim to create an India where all children have access to quality education.
After completing her studies at the London School of Economics, Safeena Husain spent a decade working with underserved communities around the world. This Women’s Day, we sat down with Safeena, the founder and executive director of the NGO, to understand more about the problem of access to education in India and Educate Girls (EG).
How did EG come to life?
In 2005 I was on an assignment in Nainital (Uttarakhand, India), setting up a clinic there. My father had accompanied me on this trip. We stopped by a village one day and started talking to some women who then asked my father how many children he had. “Here she is, the only child I have!” he said with a smile.
Hearing this, some of the women burst out crying and expressed such deep sorrow for my father as if it were such a curse to have a daughter for your only child!
This incident stayed with me and got me thinking about the countless girls living invisible lives and being seen as a burden and liability to society. This is how Educate Girls came into being.
The issue of education in a country as large as India can be slightly, if not incredibly overwhelming! What are the cornerstones of Educate Girls that you believe can help create real change?
India has over 3 million young girls who are not in school, so the scale of the issue is definitely overwhelming. The only way to bring about real change and to sustain it is by making the communities a part of the process thereby changing mindsets.
We work in the most backward regions of India to increase enrollment and attendance of girls along with learning outcomes of all children.
We do this with the help of community volunteers, communities, school administration and government departments.
EG is currently active in more than 8000 schools across seven districts of Rajasthan. Why Rajasthan?
When I started the legwork in India, I read through several reports on education and learnt about some alarming statistics. There were 26 critical gender-gap (w.r.t education) districts in India and of these 9 were in Rajasthan alone. The female literacy rate in Rajasthan is incredibly poor as are many other parameters of women’s welfare. I therefore picked Rajasthan to commence work.
What would you consider to be the most important lesson you’ve learnt through this journey?
Each passing day comes with a set of learnings for all of us here at Educate Girls.
For me personally, the journey has taught me one extremely important lesson: ‘take everyone along’.
This is the reason why ‘collaboration’ is one of Educate Girls’ strongest values.
How can we help? And by ‘we’ I mean every single one of us.
I believe change starts at home. Individuals must realize that it only takes one voice to start change, to support a movement. There are aspects of society that each of us feels personally aligned with so I urge you to start thinking about how you can help create change.