Gender Equity

Gender Equity

Evening the scales for the girl child in a patriarchal society is hugely transformative. At Pokhrama Foundation we get girls away from homes and into school. Getting them away from homes into schools means getting them away from bone tiring household chores, and the highly likely future of early marriage and motherhood.

Women with secondary education could earn twice as much as those with no education says a world bank report from 2018. Girls with education don’t often marry young, they enjoy better personal health, incomes of their own, and likely more of a say in decisions that impact them. They have better lives and build better families around them. Getting girls into schools, nurturing their skills and confidence, and helping them grow into leaders is a key mission of the Pokhrama Foundation.

Facts on the Ground (Bihar)

3 million girls are married before the legal age of 18 years

370,000 girls are pregnant during adolescence

1.15 million girls were enrolled in Class 1, less than 300,000 made it to Class 12

In Lakhisarai district, only 3% schools have separate toilets for girls

Source: Unicef report, India/ Bihar 2020

Getting the girl child to school

In a poverty ridden society kids are seen as beings with one mouth and two hands: one mouth to feed, two hands to work. Children’s labour is seen as essential to the survival of the family unit. While true for all children of poor families, in a patriarchal society this is much more true for the girl child. Girls look after younger siblings and do mountains of housework while families spend their meagre resources on educating their boys, hoping to give them a future. Girls are expected to go where their destiny takes them. As with many places in India, and indeed the world, this is true for Pokhrama. Educating the girl child is simply not a priority. In such a setting, getting the girl child out to school, takes concerted and consistent effort.

Pokhrama Foundation does regular, pointed outreach in the community to convince parents to send their girls to schools. The Foundation has earmarked fifty percent of its scholarship funds for the girl child. This convinces several parents to consider sending their girls to school, enabling many girls in Pokhrama to receive real schooling for the very first time.

Positive discrimination
for the girl child

While scholarship funds pay for the schooling of most girls at PFA, the Pokhrama Foundation also tries to reach girls who are outside the school system through its Learning Center. The Learning Center offers bridge courses to out-of-school children, and as a matter of policy the Foundation privileges girls and children from lower castes and minorities for its Learning Center program.

Dedicated bathrooms for girls

Ensuring clean dedicated bathrooms for girls, along with sanitary products: this is but a small step for an educational foundation but a giant one a girl child in and around Pokhrama. In an area where little more than three percent of schools have bathrooms for girls, this little step makes our girls feel safe and welcome.

Listening to our girls

While gender issues are raised and highlighted throughout the curriculum, and robust discussions and debates are part of school life at PFA, girls’ opinions are sought and heard on practical, everyday matters too. One such is the matter of school uniforms. Should girls wear skirts and shirts to school? Or should they wear salwar-kameez-duppatta? As it turned out, the answer was neither. Our girls didn’t want their movements impeded with skirts, or their minds tied up with issues of ‘modesty’ with duppattas.

Our girls insisted that like the boys they too would wear trousers and shirts and simply get on with their school-life! In classrooms, playing fields, the school kitchen (where everybody cooks together) or the roads around Pokhrama where they race with their bi-cycles, our girls move freely, hold themselves up proudly, and as equals with the boys.

Making girls leaders.
Making girls

Women and girls power the Pokhrama Foundation. In the governing body of the Pokhrama Foundation, at the Pokhrama Foundation Academy, the Learning Center, the Pokhrama Club, Pokhrama Herald and the Outreach Center at Hyderabad- women and girls lead, plan and execute.

We have strategically started moving towards a more women led organization. In the recently created (September 2022) US Board for Pokhrama Foundation, four out of five board members are women. Two out of the three most significant executive positions in the Pokhrama Foundation are held by women. The Learning Center was conceptualized by our lead teacher--Vaishnavi Mohan, and is run by student-volunteers most of whom are young girls. The Pokhrama Herald and Pokhrama Club are women led projects, and our Outreach Center at Hyderabad is run by two women. Female leadership and initiative is visible and palpable everywhere in the Pokhrama Foundation.