Located in the northern region of India, Rajasthan is a state famous for its historical forts and palaces. As the seventh most populous of India’s 29 states, Rajasthan is home to 69 million people, 10 million of whom are classified as poor. However, thanks to its strong economic growth, Rajasthan’s poverty rate is declining faster than any other Indian state.
Despite Rajasthan’s growth, gender inequality persists in the state, especially in rural, lower caste and other marginalized communities. Rajasthan is one of three Indian states with the greatest educational gender disparity in the country, which is marked by a low rate of girls enrolling in school and a high rate of girls dropping out.
The dropout rates are mostly due to two reasons: either girls must take labor jobs to contribute to their family incomes or they must get married, sometimes at just 12 years old. In rural Rajasthan, child marriage is customary and nearly one out of five teen girls become mothers. Teen motherhood is linked to low education levels, poverty, inadequate nutrition, health issues and maternal mortality.
In 2014, IPHD adopted the village of Bhikamkor, a rural community approximately 65 kilometers north of Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second biggest city and the location of the IPHD main office.
With a population of approximately 5,000 people, Bhikamkor is a 500-year-old village on the edge of the Thar Desert that remains traditionally conservative and closely observes the caste system.
Economic development is slow in Bhikamkor due to low education and skill levels, resulting in widespread poverty. Diseases and illnesses such as anemia, malnutrition and dental and gynecological issues are prevalent due to inadequate health facilities and limited access to care, along with a lack of basic hygiene and sanitation awareness.
Bhikamkor’s community is male-dominated and gender inequality is pervasive in all daily activities. Girls often drop out of school to get married, have children and take care of household responsibilities. An estimated 70% of girls in the village do not receive a secondary education (compared to approximately 40% of boys).