Sunday, July 3, 2011

Indian Girls Given An Opportunity to Rise Above the Status Quo

By Pamela J. Wells
Published on 7-3-11

Sana Azmi wants to become a lawyer and Meena aspires to be a computer engineer. Both girls have high ambitions despite their socioeconomic status. They both live in the slums of New Delhi.

Sana has dreamed of becoming a lawyer for a longtime now, but a decision was made by her father, who is unemployed, to withdraw her from school when she turns 16. Her family could not afford to provide her an education. Also, her father’s focus was on getting her married soon, so he felt that too much education would interfere with her finding a “groom in their socioeconomic community.” Sana pleaded with her father to find a way to pay for her education, telling him that not having a “higher education she would be like an empty room.”

16 year old Meena has dreams of building “her own big business,” perhaps a Google someday. With hard work and determination she plans on completing and earning her computer engineering degree. Meena’s father is a day laborer. Half of his income was being spent on alcohol and he would always come home drunk at night. Meena was unable to do her homework, because he would be making so much noise. Meena was considered a liability to her father. He did not see any value in her education.

In India, the role of men in the family is that they are the primary economic earner, which results in them receiving more opportunities than women in education and skilled training. The role of women in the household is that of homemakers and caregivers. The opportunities that men are given, they are denied. A young girl is considered a burden. Fulfilling her destiny in her marital home as a homemaker is what is expected of her. The focus of her parents is in getting her married, so investing in a girl’s development and growth is seen as a waste of the family’s resources that could be more efficiently used elsewhere. The outcome of this is the restricted access of young girls to an education, mobility, and the outside world. A girl’s self-esteem is negatively impacted leaving, her with low self-confidence.

Despite these and the many other challenges that young girls face in India, there is hope, which has come forth by way of Saima Hasan, the founder of the Roshni Academy, a non-profit organization that identifies brilliant girls, such as Sana and Meena, who are living in socioeconomically underprivileged communities and trains and mentors them. Saima founded the organization while she was enrolled in Stanford in 2007 as a junior. In 7 districts of Delhi, as of June 2010, over 500 underprivileged girls lives had been transformed through the Roshni Academy.

The formula that Roshni uses is simple:
Empower smart girls with self-confidence, critical thinking skills, basic social skills, and life skills—and make them realize that they can succeed by working hard and taking risks. 

All of the girls at Roshni live below the poverty line; however, they undergo intensive educational studies over a period of six months with three training modules to maintain their top academic standing. There are 25 subjects in the curriculum, which ranges from conflict management to public speaking to hygiene. Additionally, students learn computer and internet basics. When the students have completed the training course, 60 of the top-performing students at Roshni are granted scholarships to pursue their secondary and college education, which is funded by the “Nurul Hasan Foundation.”
In India, the conditions that the poor live in are dire; but, there are also other parts of the world where people are living in poverty, under the same conditions, and where you will also find disfranchised youth, unfortunately; such as in certain parts of the U.S.: Durham, NC, or Harlem, NY, and in Silicon Valley, there is Oakland and East Palo Alto. In East Palo Alto, while tutoring students there, Saima Hasan came up with the idea for the Roshni Program. Next year, she hopes to start and develop an American version of the program in this area.

Sana’s parents stopped looking for potential grooms for her. Now, they support her and encourage her to finish high school and to continue her education at a university once she has received her degree. Meena’s father no longer drinks and is saving up money, working long hours, to pay for her education. He is proud of her and has hopes that someday she will be able to help lift them out of poverty.

                 In the photo on the right is Sana and the 
                 photo below is Meena on the computer 
                 with fellow students. Both girls are in the 
                 Highly Inspirational documentary video’s 

Copyright © 2011 Pamela J. Wells. All Rights Reserved

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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