The rallying cry roused the young women assembled for Educate Girls’ monthly Team Balika meeting in the desert town of Bar, Rajasthan. This being the second week of her six-week placement at Educate Girls’ regional office to conduct a research study into girls’ education and empowerment, Elizabeth Shaw was happy to be invited to observe the monthly gathering.
“We are the change-makers” Team Balika work to build local support for girls’ education and to improve learning outcomes by implementing creative learning methods in schools. These young volunteers are critical to Educate Girls’ community mobilization model, which is reforming government schools and increasing school participation among female students across rural Rajasthan.
The goal of the monthly meeting was to motivate the Team Balika members, develop their leadership and teaching skills, share success stories, and discuss solutions to challenges they were facing in schools. While some of the newer members were shy, the more experienced of the team spoke confidently about the ups and downs of their work.
Elizabeth, who is from Australia, did not need to understand Hindi to hear the commitment and pride in the voices of inspired girls, many of who had faced significant challenges in completing their own education. Impressed and inspired by one such girl, Elizabeth peeped into the life of Sukhi Singh.
Sukhi is a 18 year old, who lost her mother when she was just two years old. As a child she had to work to help her father who was left to care for his three young daughters alone. Despite her hardship, Sukhi was lucky that her father was a firm believer in the importance of girls’ education and encouraged her to attend school, which she did in the face of demanding family responsibilities.
Now Sukhi is one of Educate Girls’ ‘change-makers’, and is working to inspire girls and their families to share her and her father’s commitment to send girls to school. She has quickly won the respect of her village and has successfully convinced five families to enroll their out-of-school daughters in her first few days working as a Team Balika volunteer. Although young, Sukhi is clearly a natural leader with a calm and engaging presence that commands the attention of others when she speaks.
And she is not the only one. These girls, some of whom are the first female students in their village to ever complete the 8th standard, are having a profound effect on the lives of girls not much younger than themselves. Sukhi and the other Team Balika members are fully utilizing this chance to discover and develop their natural talents. With Educate Girls’ support they are utilizing these skills to play a pivotal role in the transformation of their communities.