Convincing families in rural India to educate girls can be a difficult task, even when families are educated and wealthy. For families in underprivileged areas, such as those where RDF operates, this task is even more difficult as parents often can only spare enough money to educate one child and the son takes precedence. However, from its very inception RDF has emphasized the importance of equal access to education amongst boys and girls.
If the class strength for girls does not reach 50%, RDF teachers travel to surrounding villages, visiting families and explaining to them the importance of educating their daughters as well as their sons. Convincing families to educate their daughters was one of the biggest challenges when RDF opened our first school in 1996. These days girls occupy about 42-50 percent of the class benches.
For the first 15 years, RDF gave extra fee concessions to girl students to encourage families to send them to school. In special cases, incentives were also given for girls to continue their education, especially as they move from primary to secondary schools.
To empower girls, RDF has volunteers and mentorship teams to give them the necessary skills to cope with the transition into teenage years.
Girls, alongside their boy counterparts, are encouraged to attend personality development and communication skills training in the summer school conducted by Synchrony Financial. They have been working with RDF for several years and each year, the participation of the number of girls increases significantly. Our girls also participated in the Lead India 2020 program which aims at building self-awareness in rural children in order to groom them as future leaders of India. The students learnt about their responsibilities towards their communities and society at large and how to manage personal challenges. It was an opportunity that the girls learnt a lot from and our hope is that it has empowered them to become socially conscious citizens who are the change-makers of tomorrow.