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Women’s Education Project – India (WEP India) is a Bangalore based NGO that is working towards a goal of bettering the status of women through education. A report.
In the times where we talk about digital world of e-commerce, cloud computing, apps, bots and many more, India is still struggling with basics of education. And when it comes to women’s education, after 70 years of independence, we have miles to go even before we have some results to show.
The challenge is not unknown but statistically, 57% of girls in India drop out of school before 10th grade. 47% disappear into early marriage and 22% have a child before they turn 18. Out of the 43% of young women who do stay in school, more than 50% are malnourished, only 23% have access to higher education and finally, only 22% enter formal sector employment.
Women’s Education Project – India (WEP India), an NGO headquartered in Bangalore working towards women’s education in India is set out to tackle precisely this challenge. Founded in 2002, WEP works toward educating women in India of limited means to become knowledgeable, confident and meaningfully employed. The NGO works in partnership with selected NGOs and operates centers in Kadappa, Madurai and Hyderabad in South India with its office in Bangalore.
WEP-India encourages change and solution driven mindset. Recently, the NGO came up with an idea of Hackathon – Hack4Her to tackle issues and innovate, to solve some of the issues focusing on Education faced by girls and women in our society in the month of Novemeber’17. This is the first time an NGO has organized a Hackathon in India. The two phased Hackathon saw record breaking participation (2000 registration) from diverse group of people driven by social cause of changing the landscape of women’s education in India.
Technologists, designers and innovators with great social insights came aboard for this hackathon together to build technology based solutions. The hackathon brought-in both tangible and intangible value in complex and diverse ecosystem in India. Speaking about the idea of hackathon and its impact in women’s education, Shruthi Dinkar, Director – WEP India said, “Women’s Education Project India conceptualized the idea of Hack4Her in the context of some real challenges faced by a woman to pursue her education in India. Here, we are talking about women in rural parts of the country who drop out due to various socio-economic reasons. By addressing some of the resolvable challenges, through this hackathon, we are taking baby steps to ensure our women in the coming generations don’t drop out of schools and colleges for reasons that could have been just a hack away. This hackathon is one step closer to make a woman self-reliant and independently empowered through education.” The winning team is entitled to an acceleration program facilitated by Rhok India and the prize is awarded by WEP India.
The winning solution to the varied list of problem statement given to participant was Women’s Education Project’s ‘I am Leader’ program. The challenge was to arrive at a platform where students have a progression to each theme of the program namely – Health, Finance, Civics, Environmental Science etc. from the time they join the program. And, to build a platform where users can login from any part of the world and learn. As a solution, a web application was presented that takes existing offline program of WEP I am leader and adds the gamifying layers on web application dedicated to it where, girls play a visual novel game according to their profile level and explore the possible life learnings and be inspired.
In India, there are numerous NGOs who do some incredible work at the grass-roots level for women empowerment. However, one of the key concerns is the fact that the NGOs and social organisations do not have a platform to have dialogues or have opportunities to showcase their work which could open doors for collaboration and successful implementations of programs in large scale. To address this challenge, WEP India organised its key initiative – “Beyond Borders” conference in Bangalore to bring together NGOs, CSRs, Social enterprises and individuals committed to advancing the lives of girls and women living in poverty through exchange of strategies, programs and resources.
The one-day event was inaugurated by Shruti Shibulal – Tamara, Coorg who also addressed the gathering with a welcome note and included keynote speeches from eminent speakers like Poonam Barua – WILL Forum. Speaking about the idea behind the event, Shruthi Dinkar – Director, Women’s Education Project India said, “We believe various agencies have developed numerous diverse strategies to address issues in the areas of Health, Finance, Literacy, Education, Anti-trafficking, Domestic Violence and employment/ livelihood enhancement. Learning about these strategies and bringing the case-studies under one roof through joint programs is a powerful way to boost impact. Through this conference, it is anticipated the exchange of creative ideas, programs, strategies and resources will produce new synergies/ partnerships, adoption of new programs by established NGOs, creation of new partnerships among NGOs and efficient deployment of resources.”
The panel discussion saw participation from eminent leaders in corporate India and social organisation including Shruti Shibulal – Tamara, Coorg, Kritika Murugesan – Nasscom 10000 Start-ups, Vidya Laxman – Tesco, Anita Gurumurthy – IT for Change, Rumi Malik – IBM and revolved around the topic “Is Digital India a Country for Women?”. The panel explored the role and significance of technology in changing the mindset of people to bring about social change. Empowering women with technology and equipping them with basic tools of communications like mobile phones, tablets and spectrum to reach out to the world outside their confinements held an anchor to the discussion. While the corporates spoke about various policies implemented in organisations to bring in and retain more women at the workforce, NGOs gave a perspective of how safe are women when they are finally equipped with technology and how patriarchal mindset is still a threat to women’s freedom and will to step out to college.
“The world’s youngest headmaster” – Babar Ali who is a celebrated personality for education in rural India shared his vision and his journey of building open school – Ananda Shiksha Niketan which is first open school started by him in Murshidabad at the age of 9. NGOs like BuzzIndia – which educates rural women about financial independence through the concept of a bus travelling to the deepest parts of rural Karnataka, shared case studies of how women can take control of their lives and give a better prospect to her family through education. Milaan represented by Mr. Dhirendra Pratap Singh spoke about their success in implementing quality education in rural part of North India and shed some light on social entrepreneurship. Mahila Samakhya Karnataka presented decades of experience and challenges faced for the cause of socio economic advancement among Dalit women. Best Practices Foundation which aims to capture the vast and diverse knowledge emerging from the social development communities to improve the quality of life for poor and marginalised communities through documentation, innovation, implementation and dissemination of best practices postulated the importance of collaborations and continued dialogue among NGOs. WEP India, through this one day conference, brought together organizations and individuals who would be working on the issues together and form a consortium. The event concluded with a workshop for self-defence by Durga India, an NGO working towards safety of women and equips women with self-defence tactics. Durga India emphasised on the responsibility of every citizen and the system to ensure women’s safety, it is also of paramount importance that a woman is aware of her surroundings and takes precautions to ensure her ow safety.
Women’s Education Project (WEP), founded in 2002 is a not-for-profit organization in India which believes in empowering women through education and thereby lifting millions of girls out of poverty. The centers provide resources for young women from families living on less than 90INR a day to graduate from college and begin a career. Within this supportive community, WEP students receive funds for college tuition, books and transportation, study in the library and computer lab and attend the ‘I am a Leader’ program. As alumni, (many successfully placed in jobs), they have enlarged their vision of life’s possibilities and equally important, gained confidence and, perhaps for the first time, discovered a sense of self.
Images source: Rajeshwari Channakrishna