Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Day of the Girl Child: a brighter future for girls in India

On 11 October, the world will celebrate the 4th International Day of the Girl Child, highlighting the rights of girls all over world and the unique challenges they face. In 2015, this day includes a special focus on the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals and the importance of supporting girls during their adolescent years.

In 1999, prior to the launch of the Millennium Development Goals, 106 million children of primary school age were not attending school. Today, that number has virtually been halved, yet almost 60 million children are still without access to primary education.

Unfortunately, girls are still more likely to miss out on an education than their male peers, even though we know that educated girls are less likely to marry early, less likely to die in childbirth, and more likely to have educated healthy children of their own.

In order to increase the enrolment rates of girls, in 2009 India implemented compulsory and free education for all children aged 6-14, removing the economic burden of school fees for many poor, rural communities. However, demand for child labour continues to flourish, particularly in sectors such as mining, where companies look to recruit children who can fit into small spaces underground. Coupled with low household incomes, girls like Tasleema are often forced to leave school early in order to support their families.

As the third of seven children in her family, Tasleema was born into poverty. Her family`s situation improved, however, once Tasleema was enrolled in ChildFund India`s sponsorship program. While Tasleema was still young, her father suffered a heart attack and was unable to continue working. ChildFund`s support made it possible for Tasleema to continue her education while her mother kept the family afloat by working as a cook for a nearby school.

By the time Tasleema reached high school, her family`s needs had begun to outgrow her mother`s income. Tasleema assessed her family`s situation, her mother`s meagre earnings and her father`s continuous medical expenses and decided it was time for her to leave school and find a job. She left school before completing year 11 and set out in search of work.

Despite achieving high marks in school, Tasleema was continuously turned away from job opportunities due to her lack of employable skills €“ especially computer literacy. When ChildFund India staff became aware of Tasleema`s predicament, they invited her to participate in a program which focused on developing her IT skills as well as providing English language training. She completed the course in three and a half months.

With her new vocational skills, there were many positions advertised in the local newspaper that now offered great opportunities for Tasleema. This included a pharmacy which needed a computer operator. With the support of ChildFund, Tasleema now had the skills needed for the position, and was successful in securing the role.

Tasleema`s new job means she can comfortably support the basic needs of her family, and cover the cost of her father`s medical expenses. More importantly, Tasleema can contribute towards the costs of education for her younger siblings. While she did not complete her final years at school, she looks forward to seeing her younger siblings graduate instead. And as a skilled worker, she now has the opportunity to develop her own career.

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