As of Republic Day, Jan. 26, the girls attending the Girls’ Government Primary School in Bhikamkor no longer have to sit on the floor during class.
To succeed in school, children need a proper learning environment. Thanks largely to the support of Girls’ Education intern Olivia Arnold, IPHD was able to purchase 20 desk sets in addition to 2 teachers’ tables and 4 teachers’ stools to help create this setting in the Girls’ Government Primary School in Bhikamkor.
Previously, girls studied on the floor with mats
The classrooms are now furnished with desk sets
The newly-furnished classrooms were officially reopened on Republic Day with ceremony celebrating education and a ribbon cutting by the Sarpanch (elected village leader). The additions to the school were also covered by a local newspaper.
IPHD is now looking towards improving the school facilities in other ways, including providing the students with a drinking water facility.
Launched in 2015, Saheli Women is an ethical fashion social enterprise, developed as a social initiative by IPHD, that includes 24 women in the village of Bhikamkor, providing them with fair wages and a safe work environment free from gender, religious and caste discrimination. From the very start, the women have dreamt of working on professional sewing machines. On Jan. 24, that dream came true.
After going through the IPHD budget, the IPHD team and the women decided to have IPHD invest in new machines. IPHD facilitated the purchase of four Juki sewing machines which arrived, in addition to a technician to help assemble the machines, to Bhikamkor on Jan. 24.
Following the set-up of the first machine, a ceremony was held by the Saheli Women to celebrate the arrival of the new machines. The youngest in the group tied a red string for protection onto the machine while the rest of the group sang. It was a celebration for both the women and their children, all of whom received sweets at the end of the ceremony.
The technician spent most of the day and part of the evening working to set up all the machines and teach the women how to use them, even persevering in the dark due to a power cut.
Saheli Women is always striving to provide the best quality for our partners and these sewing machines are yet another step towards progress and improvement.
For the past two months, the 50 girls who are being sponsored by IPHD have been going to school and working hard. In the second week of September, we learned that 19 of our girls were going to be dropped from the government school because they did not have Aadhar Cards (Indian ID cards).
Birth certificates are needed to get Aadhar cards and because the girls were born in the village, they never received birth certificates. The government school teacher told us she could not enroll the girls without official documents proving their Indian citizenship.
Immediately, our education advocates Rukiya and Leela got to work — seeking out the 19 girls, gathering their identifying information and taking them to get birth certificates and Aadhar cards. The process is very complicated and time-consuming, and after one week of tireless efforts by the education team, 10 girls still did not have their Aadhar cards — with the government enrollment deadline quickly approaching the following week.
On Thursday, September 14, Rukiya, Leela, IPHD Founder and Executive Director Madhu Vaishnav and Girls’ Education intern Olivia Arnold went to the house of Bhikamkor’s Sarpanch (elected leader) with the 10 girls to deliver a letter urging him to immediately issue birth certificates for them. Unfortunately, we were told that the Sarpanch was not home, so all we could do was leave the letter at his home and hope that he would read it.
To our pleasant surprise, the Sarpanch personally called IPHD founder Madhu the very next morning to tell her that he would support our mission to keep the girls in school and sign the birth certificates. We were so relieved and overjoyed!
Again, our education advocates Rukiya and Leela immediately began doing all the hard work: getting the girls’ birth certificates filled out, bringing them to the Sarpanch to sign and then bringing the girls to get Aadhar cards.
On Wednesday, September 20, less than one week after our original plea to the Sarpanch, Rukiya and Leela were able to get Aadhar cards for all of the remaining 10 girls.
All of our 50 girls will now be officially enrolled and are no longer at risk of getting dropped from the school. IPHD would like to extend a big thank you to the Sarpanch for joining our mission in support of girls’ education.
Without a doubt, gender inequality starts from very early on in a girl’s life, this is especially evident in education. Education is the key to beginning to bridge the gap between genders. IPHD recognizes this and the impact that proper education can have on a woman’s life in the long run. Thus, the Girls’ Education Program’s primary goal is to ensure the enrollment into school of all girls in the village so that women are empowered and gain independence from men.
If efforts to motivate girls to go to school, all girls who enroll through IPHD’s program receive financial assistance which includes uniform and school supplies. After much struggle to obtain the uniforms due to a national strike that took place in all the fabric factories, a total of 38 girls received their uniform this past weekend, just in time for the school festivities that take place during Independence Day.
A recent study that we conducted revealed that 38% of the girls that form part of IPHD’s education program decided to reenroll because of the economic support that IPHD is giving to the students and the public school since they now feel like they are receiving quality education.
This is just the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. There is a lot more in store for IPHD’s education beneficiaries, so make sure to stay check-in soon!
Finally! After almost a year of planning and fundraising efforts, IPHD has opened the doors for Bhikamkor’s only female health clinic, staffed by a female gynecologist, nurse, and supported by IPHD’s own health outreach team.
Although the right to health is a human right, it is not always a reality. Until now, the only health center in Bhikamkor has been a small government hospital that was staffed by one part-time male physician. Women and adolescent girls rarely seek care from the male doctor due to deep cultural and social taboos. The consequences, not surprisingly, have been profound for the thousands of women and children living in Bhikamkor and the surrounding dhanis (farmer communities). As revealed in a series of health scans conducted by IPHD, the majority of women and children are highly anemic and severely malnourished. We found that the plight of poor health status is further compounded by early marriages, gender inequality, multiple pregnancies, and complicated childbirths. One in every four women interviewed gave birth at home, without the assistance or supervision of a certified health professional. Approximately 40% of children had not received the recommended vaccinations.
The major barrier in achieving healthy practices for women and children in Bhikamkor is not one related to interest or initiative; the women want to receive the healthcare services necessary to keep their families healthy. However, they simply had no way of accessing a physician.
Thus, on the inauguration day of the Saheli Clinic, we were encouraged by the enormous crowd in attendance and the 44 women and children who were treated by our physician. Through the services provided in the clinic, IPHD hopes to improve the health literacy of women and children in the village, and impart important preventive care practices regarding family planning, disease prevention, and basic hygiene.
The Saheli Clinic will operate on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, from 10:30am-1:30pm. Stay tuned to hear more about the progress IPHD’s clinic makes in Bhikamkor.