Why does Sister India provide holistic classes to uplift and protect Indian women and girls?
Studies show that education is the single best way to change the life of an oppressed woman or girl. Education also breaks the cycle of abuse and oppression for her daughter. An educated mother shows less son preference, and is more likely to educate her daughter as well as her sons.
What do we mean when we talk about holistic adult education classes? The majority of Sister India students come to us between the ages of 15-35 without a background of formal education. They also include widows, who have been abandoned by their families and are at great risk. As children, many of our students were married off young, or sent to work instead of school to help provide for their family’s meager income. There are high rates of child marriage in the populations we serve. When a girl in India is married, she is pulled out of her home and school, and sent to live and work in the home of her new husband’s family, never to return. Her dreams for her life are cut short.
Sister India student Esha said of her first day of class, “I felt I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to school!” For two hours each weeknight, eager students fill Sister India classrooms for a year-long program. Many make sacrifices to attend class; some bring their children.
In the first month, she will write her first letters, words and sentences on a personal chalkboard. She will write her name for the first time and learn numbers 1-100. A woman’s first letters and numbers are a brave step toward breaking the cycle of abuse not only for herself, but also for her daughters and her family. In the class, she joins a caring community, and together with them she takes life-changing steps toward health and safety for her family.
All of her life, she has been told she has less value than males, but in her classes she learns that she and her daughters are worthy of an education too. Along with her entire village, her family learns how to recognize and prevent trafficking and child marriage. Her teachers introduce her to government improvement/ infrastructure projects, job availability in the area and other government programs available to her. Entrepreneurial skills enable her to start a small home-based businesses making food, soaps or other home goods.
After a year:
• 80% of students reach a 5th grade level of learning within the year!
• Student incomes increase by over 55% because of the classes, alleviating the financial pressure to traffic their own children, and ending their reliance on child labor.
• Over 25% of students once encouraged child marriage and no longer do.