Today, India is glowing. Covered in countless, delicate lights and intricate ribbons, the world’s second largest national population celebrates 68 years of independence.
On 15 August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had become the first Prime Minister of India that day, raised the Indian national flag above the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi and gave a speech that still resonates today.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends…”
For the Girl Rising team currently working with local partners in India, the idea of moving forward into a new era is particularly pertinent, as we collaborate to get Indian girls in school. India is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be born a girl (UNESCO, 2012). Despite recent policies that make primary education free nationwide, girls continue to face extreme barriers to completing their education, including access to quality education, early marriage, extreme poverty, and widespread gender-based violence making the trip to school a dangerous journey. According to UNICEF, one in two women in the country were child brides in 2012; 23 million continue to be today.
“Girls and women have for centuries been marginalized in Indian society. Now, things are changing and with more educated girls growing up to be educated mothers we will see huge implications on the country’s GDP, birth rates, health, and overall well-being of the nation,” explains Justin Reeves, Girl Rising’s Senior Director of Global Partnerships.
Girl Rising comes to India as part of the ENGAGE (Empowering New Generations to Advance Girls’ Education) program, designed to ensure that every girl has equal access to education. With the assistance and close collaboration of USAID, as well as our ongoing support from Intel Corporation and CIEE, ENGAGE brings the Girl Rising movement to the places that need it most. Girl Rising is excited to launch the campaign in three countries in 2015, including India.
“What inspires me most are the people we get to work with and the potential our program has to contribute to positive change. Not only in respect to access to education, but also advancing issues of gender equity and empowerment,” says Blanka Homolova, Girl Rising’s ENGAGE Country Program Manager.
The world knows that educating a girl is one of the highest returns on investment, and in a country with over 8 million school-aged girls, the potential is astronomical. With the current population size of the country, and the rate at which it’s growing, there is a huge potential for meaningful change.
Our partner NGO Educate Girls is also a bright spark for change. “Their volunteer team has currently about 2000 members, and will grow to about 4000 in the course of the next year or two. Every individual spends several hours every day working within their own community, visiting homes, working with teachers, talking to parents to ensure that their children’s right, the universal access to education right is exercised,” Blanka adds.
As Justin says, “Imagine, you can rally millions of people around a cause…. millions of people who want to be a catalyst for change. I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Neither can we!
Join the global conversation below, tell us how India inspires you.
Learn more about Girl Rising’s ENGAGE program at girlrising.com/engage.