Last year Subhasini, 15, enlisted the help of her teachers to convince her parents to let her go to school instead of getting married.
Subhasini is a 15 year old student in Malihabad, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Her family life is similar to many in her area. She has three sisters and one brother and her parents make very little as laborers. Two of her sisters are illiterate and got married at the age of 13. Her father’s alcoholism cuts into their already meager resources.
Last winter Subhasini was shocked to learn that her parents had found her a groom. The bad experiences of her elder sisters’ early marriages were fresh in her mind and she pleaded with her parents to hold off on the marriage and let her continue with her studies.
Women make up 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and face seemingly insurmountable barriers such as unequal pay and opportunities, lack of or limited access to education and healthcare, poor representation in government, and a lowered social status in comparison to men.
However, in case after case, women and girls who are educated are able to break the cycle of poverty faster than their male counterparts. This realization led to the 2008 UN World Development Report’s statement that “investment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment in the developing world.”
A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult.
The World Bank, August 2011.
In addition, once the cycle is broken for a woman, she is more likely to invest up to 90 percent of her wealth into the wellbeing of her family, as opposed to men who tend to invest less – closer 30 percent. In other words, when a woman succeeds, her community succeeds.
Subhasini was ready to break the cycle, but she couldn’t do it alone. She went to her teachers.
They helped Subhasini to sensitize her parents to the dangers of child marriage. Child marriage is relatively common in India, despite the fact that it is illegal. Parents who marry their children off before the age of 18 can be prosecuted with a criminal offense. Subhasini’s teachers held regular counseling sessions with her parents until they were convinced of the benefits of keeping Subhasini in school.
They’ve now promised to wait to marry Subhasini after she becomes of legal age.
Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.
Subhasini’s story might have been quite different had she not been a student in a special government boarding school that benefits from a program known as “Digital Study Hall,” which provides a digital resource of government sanctioned curriculum, video-recorded instruction of India’s best teachers, and other educational resources not available to many rural schools in India’s overburdened education system.
It was a Digital Study Hall training on girl empowerment that gave Subhasini’s teachers the tools they needed to help her. The program, funded by the Mona Foundation, received the Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics, and 3rd place (of 650) for the Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation.
Mona Foundation believes that the most leveraged way to alleviate global poverty is through universal education and gender equality. Mona Foundation currently supports 17 educational initiatives in eight countries, touching the lives of tens of thousands of children, women, and their families.
For Subhasini, the most important thing is that she gets to keep studying. She is a sensitive and empowered child happily continuing her education and moving towards a better and brighter future.
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