In many parts of India, the arrival of a baby girl calls for mourning rather than celebration. Abandoning them at birth or marrying them off as children is common practice. These girls are looked upon as huge economic burden, and therefore it is hardly surprising that many families in India don't see the point in investing in their girls' education and do not send them to school.
The BALIKA program was started with a strong belief that educated women will not only contribute to the economy but also issues of population and social evils like the dowry system and child marriage will reduce as more women are educated. Studies conducted in developing countries have shown that this is true. Today, even the World Bank has acknowledged that there is no investment more effective for achieving the millennium development goals than educating girls. "According to the World Bank, some of the benefits associated with girls' education include reduction of child and maternal mortality, improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates and improvement in economic production".
Indian Government’s statistics reveal that only 3 out of 10 girls who enter class 1 complete class 10. While enrolment rates of girls are improving marginally in India, dropout levels remain alarmingly high. At primary school level, over 45% of girls’ dropout of school and this increases to over 73% by the time the child has reached class 10. Research has shown that reasons for this dropout may be as minor as the girl child not being able to afford a school dress/uniform to go to school and could also include more complex factors like girls taking on the responsibility of household chores at a very young age as a result of gender stereotyping.
Successful education of the girl child has been repeatedly acknowledged as an effective mechanism to break this inter-generational cycle of poverty, social norms, myths and social evils. Research conducted in developing countries has shown that a literate female population is linked to reduction in population growth rates. On the other hand, illiteracy breeds ignorance and fear that only increases her vulnerability to be exposed to lifelong abuse, suppression and exploitation.
The BALIKA program selects girls based on multiple criteria including enrollment in government schools, family income, parents' educational background, social background and the child's aptitude. A comprehensive sponsorship is created to take care of a range of their educational requirements, providing not only academic support that enables them to make a success of their schooling experience but also material support including uniforms, books, school bags, shoes, socks etc. to enable the girl child to go to school with dignity. Our Balikas receive academic support through our beyond school programs where concepts in Maths, Science and Language are taught to bridge the gaps in learning and enable children to attain grade-specific competency levels. The teaching methodology includes the extensive use of innovative and technology based teaching tools and activities such as storytelling, group games, etc. which make learning not only meaningful but also fun. Our team also works closely with parents and the community to sensitize them on gender equity, the importance of education and changes they will witness in Balikas with education. This is essentially done to ensure that the Balikas do not drop out of school.