Swabhiman provides adolescent girls with the necessary support required for them to return to school and not only complete their secondary education, but also build leadership skills through workshops and exposure visits, so that they become change-leaders in the communities.
A variety of research on the subject of girls and education very clearly indicates that emphasizing education for girls has a huge positive impact on community development. From increasing income levels to decreasing conflicts and crime rates, there is hardly a social or economic index that is not positively impacted.
In rural Uttar Pradesh, only 13% women are literate up to primary, 4.1% up to secondary, 3% up to higher secondary and a paltry 1% are graduates. Even among males only about 7% have completed higher secondary and just 4.5% are graduates.
In a survey that Milaan completed in 2007, across 14 villages in Sidhauli Block, Sitapur, U.P. India, it was revealed that while on the one hand, the basic literacy rate was more than 92%, less than 1% of the population had completed secondary-level education. Additional research revealed that the dropout percentage among girls after class VIII is as high as 96.7% in the area. On ground what this means is that a very small percentage of girls in the region are actually completing education up to class 10th, which is the bare minimum required for any opportunities being offered. This, in turn, leaves these young girls vulnerable to issues of early marriages, early motherhood and domestic abuse.
Of the 75 districts in UP, there are still 43 districts with a female literacy rate below 60%.
It is a well-researched and well-established fact that educating girls is the best investment to make towards developing a community. “Study after study shows that getting and keeping girls in school reduces child mortality and malnutrition; improves family health; delays the age of first marriage; lowers fertility rates; enhances women’s domestic role and their political participation in society; improves their functioning in the wage labor force; strengthens a family’s survival strategies; and probably most intriguing to governments, increases economic growth,” according to the work of Abu Ghaida and Klasen (World Bank, 2004) shows, improvement in girls’ education is the cause of increase in economic growth, not the effect.” – The Economic and Human Development Costs of Missing the Millennium Development Goal on Gender Equity.World Bank Working Paper. Report No. 29710. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
Their work also shows that the effects of girls’ education are measurable, and large: for example, if the goals for education were met, the number of births per woman would be reduced by 0.6. Child mortality would also be reduced: one more year of female education reduces it by 18 per thousand. If the goals were met and gaps reduced, 435,000 children would be saved each year in India. The Population Council, an international research organization, has pointed out that while each of these benefits could be achieved by other interventions, only girls’ education achieves them all.
There is, therefore a need to educate these girls to a level where they are aware of and capable of standing up for their rights as citizens.In view of this, Milaan started the SWABHIMAN programme at its Swarachna Learning and Resource Centre wherein all necessary support was provided to the girls who have dropped out to return and complete their secondary school education. This includes visiting their parents to convince them to allow their daughters to finish secondary school.