India, despite its rich and unique culture, also entails detrimental norms such as injustice and abuse towards women.
Injustice towards women in India is heavily protested against within the country as the Indian constitution even preserves laws promoting empowerment towards women. This includes freedom of voice, movements and rights over their own bodies, etc. However, the fact remains that the majority of women in India do not feel safe. India is known to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation Survey.
India's poverty is the main cause of the inability to enforce the constitution. The government is often forced to reduce expenditure on services such as education and even healthcare. Girls’ accessibility to these services, rather than boys’, will be compromised. An Oxfam report stated that annually 23 million girls drop out of school due to a lack of hygiene services within the schools. The girls are then left to their expected domesticity. It has been found that women in India will spend 5 hours on unpaid work daily as opposed to the half hour that men will spend. Women are therefore left unable to provide for themselves which leaves them extremely vulnerable, funding the danger and injustice they have to face daily.
The women in India are not only subject to this injustice but also extreme abuse, regardless of their age. For instance, despite stricter regulation of laws to prevent rape in India in 2013, it has shown no sign of decreasing, with rape of minor girls increasing by 82% from 2015 to 2016.
Furthermore, surveys from the Indian government report that a total of 42% of girls in India have been sexually abused. This excludes the hidden cases of rape that are concealed, either by being dismissed by the police or the girls being dissuaded from reporting.
These cases of abuse are often not caused by strangers, but rather close ones carrying out domestic violence. Namely, 85% of all violent crimes experienced by women are cases of intimate partner violence. This can lead to permanent physical and mental disabilities, and sometimes, even death. The women are placed in positions of dependence and painted as being weak, leaving them vulnerable to such exploitation.
The disempowerment of women and girls in India caused by the systemic abuse and injustice they face leads them to create a dependency on the people around them, unable to achieve a better life. By targeting one of the most important aspects of life: education, KhiltiPari, along with hundreds of different charities, help young girls in India gain independence, enabling them to escape this horrid cycle of abuse and create their own path towards success.
India is a huge country, with a population of over 1.3 billion. This makes it the second most densely populated country in the world, after China. However, a large part of this population is unfortunately living in poverty, making it extremely difficult for most Indian families to survive and properly take care of their children. With over 3 million Indian children living in the streets, another 150 million living as illegal bonded labour workers, and only about 50% receiving basic primary education, the situation for the younger generations of India has never been more dire.
In the whole country, the average literacy rate is about 65.38%, with male literacy being 75.85% and female 54.16%3. It is clear that boys, in general, have more access to education than girls do, which according to the 2015 report on gender inequality in India (produced by the McKinsey Global Institute) stops women from contributing more than 18% to the country’s GDP4. We believe that the reason for such inequalities in India is partly due to the fact that women are treated as less skilled than men deemed only worthy of housework, which they receive no credit for.
Since 2009, there has been an increase in the amount of children between the ages of 6 and 14 who go to school. However, there are still astounding numbers of children, especially girls who are sadly kept at home.
So, why is the Khilti Pari initiative of great importance in India? Well, we believe that women in India are still being oppressed due to a lack of education, which can result in many issues for them and for the country as a whole. Some of these issues include loss in potential GDP, and very low rates of female literacy. On a smaller scale, girls who don’t have access to education are at a much higher risk of becoming sex workers or of being victims of assault, kidnapping, and other actions that could cause harm to women.
Khilti Pari’s primary mission is to provide education for as many Indian girls as possible, so as to not only better the country and its economy, but to reduce gender inequalities, and uplift women who have the potential to do much more than just housework. It is particularly important in India, because of the huge disparities in the way genders are viewed, and the high rates of girls who are not sent to school due to socio-cultural reasons, that Khilti Pari is trying to fight against. Do you want to educate a girl? Do you want to give her a better life or potentially even save it? Follow Khilti Pari, and help make positive changes to the lives of many.
COVID-19 is a serious threat to the livelihoods of millions of women in India.
Social and economic disparities between genders will only grow in this time of fear and economic slump. Women are especially vulnerable in traditional thinking communities that do not yet have sufficient equality between men and women.
Women forced to stay home during the pandemic may be at a much greater risk of domestic abuse from their partners as the stress and fear caused by the sudden shift in daily life will cause strain on all people. Furthermore, many women will have a much harder time reporting domestic violence as they are unable to socialize at work/with others in the community like they would have before.
Single mothers and women who do not currently have a job will be put under significant monetary constraints as the economy will inevitably slump in the coming years. Jobs will become a lot more competitive and paychecks will be cut in the coming years which will put vulnerable women in a bad position, possibly to the point of not being able to provide for themselves/their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to push millions of Indian families into extreme poverty in the coming years which is a cause of great concern. Elderly women and women with ongoing health conditions are already at a high risk of life-threatening conditions. Paired with the reduced access to medical equipment, testing kits and medical advice, these women are at a far higher risk of dying from this deadly disease than in richer countries.
Women who live in areas where there are preconceptions/misconceptions about western medicine are also at a higher risk of not being treated correctly if at all.
COVID-19 would have a negative impact on the education for females in India. A number of problems would occur, due to the pandemic, there would be lots of work needed to recover from the outbreak. The bigger concern, however, on everybody’s mind is the effect of the disease on the employment rate. Recent graduates in India are fearing withdrawal of job offers from corporates because of the current situation. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates on unemployment shot up from 8.4% in mid-March to 23% in early April and the urban unemployment rate to 30.9%. This would mean that lots of females would need to work to re stabilize the economy of India. Not only are many females struggling to find or are allowed to have an education, but now due to the outbreak that will be even more difficult. Since many can not afford online learning equipment. In addition, the pandemic has significantly disrupted higher education as well which is critical for a country’s economic future.
In addition, the pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future. A large number of Indian students enroll in universities abroad, especially in countries worst affected by the pandemic, the US, UK, Australia and China. Many such students have now been barred from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected. Therefore saying that many females which were going to move abroad to go further into their education will not get that chance to do so.
COVID-19 is going to seriously affect the livelihoods of millions of Indian women. There is a direct risk to life with the actual disease, however, the most outreaching and lasting damage will occur after people come out of lockdown and have to experience the economic and social effects of the pandemic. There are several possibilities that these girls or women may not even get an education after India phases out of a lockdown because of the higher economic strains placed on the families, as a result of a significant decrease in incomes. Young girls may be forced to work and possibly even get married at a very young age. COVID-19 is affecting the possibility of any Indian women receiving a brighter future, one with hope and success.
Women in India have struggled to achieve their basic rights, due to ancient traditions and culture where women’s main responsibility was to take care of their children. Even though this may have slowed down the empowerment of women, there have been many influencers who have sought to seek equality. One president, Pratibha Patil, fought the odds and gave women in India the basic rights to free education by imposing the Right Of Children To Free And Compulsory Education (RTE). The president during the time was Pratibha Patil, an Indian politician who served as the 12th president of India from 2007 to 2012. She is the only woman to hold the office and has been an inspiration and leader in the movement of education for women, and played the biggest role in invoking the RTE law. Pratibha Patil says “It is education that prepares a population that is not only knowledgeable and skilled, that can contribute to the growth of the nation, and as well as to the well being of society besides equipping an individual to lead a productive and successful life” at the 40th anniversary celebrations at the Delhi Public School.
Another example is Savitribai Phule who was a social reformer, and was one of India’s first modern feminist. She is well known for being the first female teacher in India and helping empower women by providing the first school for women to free them from social slavery. In 1971, only 22% of women were literate and by the end of 2001, 54.6% of women were able to read and write. Even Though, India has had an exponential growth of literacy rates in women, it is still under average compared to the world average of 79.7%.
An example of a woman being extremely successful from India is the wonderous icon: Mother Teresa. She was a woman born in Skopje, North Macedonia on 26th August 1910. Although she is seen as an international figure she spent the majority of her life changing lives and helping others in Kolkata, India. In her lifetime, she achieved what most mortals would take multiple lifetimes to even dream of. She fulfilled her life goal of changing the world for the better, changing millions of lives in the process. For example, Mother Teresa founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to the poor, particularly to those in India, that opened numerous centres serving the blind, the aged, and the disabled. Her helpers and her built orphanages, nursing homes for lepers and schools across kolkata just to name a few. Furthermore, numerous nations have bestowed honours upon her. She has been honoured with the Bharat Ratna; highest civilian order in India, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Pacem in Terris Award just to name a few for her life-changing achievements.
There have been only a handful of recognisable women stemming from India. They have fought exceptionally hard to be recognised and to bring about change in the world. Giving a girl an education; simply increases their potential to change the world ten-fold.
Did you know that according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, in 2018, about 40 percent of 15 to 18-year-old-girls were not enrolled in school, 65 percent of which were engaged in household work?
The Right to Education Act makes education free and compulsory for children in India between ages 6 and 14. So how come not all girls are in school?
A change in mindset on gender stereotypes is one of the important steps that will improve the schooling for girls in India. In some rural areas, the role girls are meant to follow is one based on house work and helping to substantiate their families. However, there are several positive initiatives that have begun in India to keep improving education for girls in India.
A promising part of the National Education Policy is its hope to 'shift focus to girls access to education and the role gender stereotypes and housework play in girls dropping out of schools,' which will be done by ‘holding regular discussions with parents on social issues like child marriage, not sending girls to high school or for further studies’.This is important because through access to education, equality for girls can be achieved in various aspects of their lives, as it allows them to become more independent and develop as an individual.
EDUCATION UNLOCKS DOORS TO NEW WORLDS
Furthermore, learning materials are modernizing. The Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research, for example, is creating textbooks in which both genders are doing housework and in which women are portrayed as professionals too. This encourages women being viewed as equal to men.
Since 2010, the number of schools with usable girls toilets has doubled and there are over 50% more schools with boundary walls. These changes create a safe environment in school for girls, encouraging them to go to school and feel at ease when they are there. Sanitary hygiene is particularly important for girls, and the increase of usable toilets help them not to feel ashamed.
Finally, improvements are being made to allow the physical access to school for girls. In some places, such as the Rampur Singhara village, sending children to school is challenging due to the distance from the school (4 miles) and the expensive bus fare. However, the state government has given free bikes to families, and this bicycle program increased the number of girls registering for schools by 425 000 in four years.
Overall, the education system has improved significantly over the years, and is continuously developing. Khilti Pari is actively supporting the cause by empowering girls and raising funds to finance girls education in private schools. What are you doing to help? By
adopting a girl, participating in our fundraisers, or even raising awareness, you can be a part of the positive change! With all these initiatives, education for girls in India is promising.
Khilti Pari strives to erase mental and cultural stigma revolving around girls in India, as well as to reduce the harmful effects that these stigmas and inequalities have on girls and women everywhere, to hopefully create a better, more accepting society.
A major cultural stigma involving girls and women across India is possibly one of the most natural things to happen in a girl’s life: menstruation. In several communities all over the country the first time a girl has her period is viewed as a very positive thing; a gateway to womanhood. However, this positivity is quickly shot down when the community forbids the same girl from entering religious places, cooking, cleaning, and even entering her own home. It is seen as common practice to have the woman who is menstruating to live in a ‘period hut’ in the time that she is in her period, in isolation, away from the rest of the family. This is because of the myth that a period makes a woman ‘impure’ for the time that she is menstruating, and must be kept away from the rest of the community during that time. But now, things have begun to change. More and more women are taking a stand to shatter these ‘period myths’, and educate the public that periods are not bad, they are actually the complete opposite.
The mentality around young girls and women receiving education in many rural parts of India can also be seen as quite discriminatory. Throughout Indian society, gender plays an important role in defining what one can or cannot do, with females often coming at a disadvantage. Historically, in Indian culture, women were seen as ‘nurturers’ and were present to take care of the home, whereas men would provide the financial support for the household. In fact, quite frequently in small villages while the birth of a boy would be a call for celebration, the birth of a girl would be seen as a dilemma. These stereotypical gender roles continued for centuries and thus resulted in the practice of child marriage of young girls. This has stopped them from receiving an education since it led them to believe that it wasn’t necessary for the females of the family to study, as their ‘job’ is to take care of the household. Across many districts in India, young women are constantly being deprived of their right to learn, the right that males have access to. Although this biased mentality is seen to be changing in urban areas of the country as more people are standing up to this problem, including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many rural parts still continue to suffer from this issue.
These stigmas and discriminatory mentalities can cause serious harm to the young women around the country and follow them for the rest of their lives. Through raising awareness, education, and your help, Khilti Pari can be a driving force in defeating this issue and changing the lives of young girls and women across India for the better.
Have you ever asked yourself the question: How does culture and being brought up in different generations have an effect on a male’s perspective on female education? At Khilti Pari, we definitely have. We asked three different generations from our family, three questions, who each experienced different cultures growing up. This is a summary of what they said:
Two males, brought up in a similar culture, were asked (both had grown up in Europe) had interestingly given similar answers to the question : “Back then, what was the general view on education for girls?”. Both had answered that growing up neither of them had seen girls’ education as being any different from that of boys. Contrastingly, two men of older generations who were brought up in very different cultures, India and Sweden, while they did have the same view on a woman’s education, their cultures’ view/perspective on this matter were not the same. For instance, the culture in Sweden explicitly supported and encouraged girls’ and guys’ education equally. Whereas, the culture in India was dissimilar, this was due to the fact that, as mentioned by the man brought up in India, that “girls' education was not encouraged, supported and given the same importance as that of boys”.
Additionally, coming from a man’s perspective who graduated in 1969 in a small-town in India, it was also evident that education for girls was not motivated as much as for boys, which only confirms what the other man from India said.
Interestingly, all of the males we asked all had the same opinion as to why they believed girls’ education is crucial. For example:
“I also think it is important to expose boys to traditional female subjects and career paths such as cooking, home economics, nursing/caring as it is to expose girls for mechanics, construction, plumbing etc” - A man who had grown up in Sweden.
“The main reason for why girls should have an education is so that girls become independent, and education is the means by which they can become independent. Moreover, Education will allow you to have more options in life, not just for jobs - but for anything.”- A man who had grown up in India.
Here we have two views of men that actively support girls’ education. While we all wish all men thought this way, unfortunately this view is not shared by all men around the world, which is why it is important to understand what the reason as to why these men in particular, have developed these opinions.
This shows that one of the possible ways to encourage girls’ education globally is by starting to target smaller, closed-minded communities and cultures that do not promote girls’ education to the extent that it has to be advocated for.
Khilti Pari did exactly this, the members went to the smaller villages in Jaipur, India and put on plays for the families of the villages. The aim of these plays was to target the narrow-minded families in the audience who have been brought up to believe that girls’ education should be belittled and demeaned. Even though these plays are not something big, it is the smaller changes that will make a huge difference someday. Don’t you agree?
What is a fundraiser? It’s the process of seeking and gathering voluntary financial contributions to an organization or charity. In Khilti Pari, Janvi and Sakshi are the main creative minds that come up with interesting and original ideas for fundraisers. But overall, every school, AIS, BSB and ISB, all have a team that work very hard on creating something new and innovative. Khilti Pari’s aim is to give an education to girls in India that do not have the possibility to receive a standard level of knowledge. It’s a nonprofit organization that is fighting the important global issue of female education.
Khilti Pari takes part and organises many fundraisers to raise funds to educate the girls in Jaipur. Over the years, Khilit Pari has organised many fundraisers that go from bake sales to art exhibitions. “Our experience with fundraisers in Khilti Pari is very positive,” said a Volunteer.
The smaller fundraisers have been organised by the Volunteer teams in all the schools. They have organised many fundraisers like Samosa Sales, Bake Sales, Valentine’s Day Fundraiser, Pumpkin Carving competition and many, many more. Although these seem small, altogether they contribute to the larger picture which is to raise as much as possible to aid the girls in the village in Jaipur. Nonetheless, Khilti Pari’s fundraiser that has been the most successful has been their Art Exhibition. They contacted many artists from all over the world, and explained to them their cause and what they aspired to do with the money they would raise, and so a lot of artists made and donated their works to Khilti Pari’s cause. Khilti Pari, then, held a huge Art Exhibition with exquisite pieces and raised huge sums of money. Not only did they gather a lot of funds, they raised a lot of awareness and spread the message about who they were and what they wanted to do in the future. Fun fact, it takes about 250 euros, a year, to send a girl to school in India.
Khilti Pari visits the villages of the young girls every year to see everything they have achieved and what they can do better in the future. They attempt to solve the global issue of educating girls which can tackle many others such as global poverty. This is why I believe that Khilti Pari is such an important and vital organization that helps our world greatly.
In rural India, more and more students are attending private schools due to the increased standards of education and facilities in comparison to those of public schools. The students of rural India are increasingly taking more advanced jobs after education than their previous generations.
Should we go Private ?
28% of the population in rural India has access to private schools in the same village they live. 50% of rural schools had been established within a five year period, of which close to 40% of enrollment occurred in private schools in rural areas, implying the rapid growth of private schooling.
In the period between 2010 to 2014, public school enrollments had decreased by 7%, indicating that parents opt for private schools for their children. Vimala Ramachandran, a professor at the National university for Educational Planning and Administration has stated that most teachers and administrators have sent their own children to private schools as they feel their children would get ‘better education there’. The drop in quality of learning outcomes in public schools have increased demand for private schooling, especially in rural areas. Private school teacher salaries are typically ⅕ of regular public school teachers, enabling private schools to hire more teachers and have a lower pupil to teacher ratio. Research done states both children and teachers have a higher attendance rate in private schools, while children have a superior test score performance.
Some of the problems that private schools face are lack of quality teacher training and absenteeism from teachers, perhaps due to the fact that they get paid way less than teachers in public schools. The lack of accountability from teachers leads to a demotivating environment and dissatisfaction. Though private school enrollments have gone up from 22% in 2008 to 30% in 2018, the number of students that can read a standard 2 level textbook has decreased by 2% over the course of 10 years (2008 - 2018).
In rural India, public schools make up the majority of educational facilities. Two generations ago, there were very little schools in rural India and many locals were illiterate. However, in recent years, the numbers of students in education have been increasing.
According to UNESCO, 58% of students in lower-secondary education are in public schooling. With technological developments, the urban schools in India are experiencing an increase in access to technology, but the rural public schools simply don’t have access to the infrastructure. For example, only 53% of government run schools have access to electricity in these rural areas. Many states in India have committed to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. This means that students should have access to facilities such as playgrounds, as well as having the protection of a boundary wall. Despite the Act, 40% of schools don’t have a playground. When it comes to the teaching in rural public schools, there are more and more vacancies being filled. However, 18% of teachers have no teaching qualifications. In addition, only 8.85 % of teachers in Jaipur have a Bachelor in Elementary Education - leaving many much less qualified. 68% of India’s population live in rural areas, meaning the current rural students are the workforce of the future - putting emphasis on how vital it is to encourage high quality education in these rural areas of India. In Jaipur, the average dropout rate for girls in their secondary education is 18.79%.
Many students in India don’t have access to schooling with sufficient technological developments or high quality teaching to provide them with a decent education. Khilti Pari are making every effort to encourage and fund the education of girls in India. Their aim is to ensure all girls have access to a good quality education with all the resources needed for a successful future.
The Khilti Pari team is a close knit family that started working together in 2016, when they wanted to make a difference in the world, in the mentality of female education, and change the views of female empowerment. Like all journeys, theirs also wasn’t the easiest; they did hit a few roadblocks and speed bumps along the way but the team has come further than ever. When they started working on the organization back in 2016, they were high school students and as Brinda Patel said, “Everything was a challenge because we were only 16. Finding a sense of direction was the toughest part and working from Belgium made it even more tough.” Those of you who don’t know, Khilti Pari helps girls in rural Jaipur get quality education. They do this by moving them from public, government run schools to private schools, where these talented girls get the education they deserve. Being high school students meant that Khilti Pari was often not their first priority and like Arnav Kothari explained, “We had accomplished a lot in my junior year but in senior year it was apparent that all the board members had stopped working as hard.”
The team has come so far from where they began, having expanded to different schools in Belgium and the Netherlands, curating a dedicated and trustworthy team of volunteers and giving 33 girls a fully funded education. Those early obstacles have helped them grow and now they are making the most of Khilti Pari as university students, advertising it on their campuses in the Netherlands, UK and USA. We can say that the dedication and effort these five members have put in is really paying off. Janvi Kakadia emphasized, “One of the main things I really enjoy about Khilti Pari is the learning process. I’ve learned so much from Khilti Pari.” Khilti Pari has been expanding more than ever, they have taken on a new board member, Simran Sejpal, who says, “When I first received the opportunity to be a part of Khilti Pari, I didn’t have to think twice, I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be a part of.” We can see that the cause itself is very close to many of their hearts.
The team has launched merchandise - their very own range of hoodies that has attracted a lot of teenagers and their families to the cause - and is able to organize a fundraiser almost every month. The fundraisers are organized either in a school, as part of the Indian community based in Belgium, or part of local events and markets, selling various products ranging from traditional Indian jewelry, pieces of art or even food. Every single member of the Khilti Pari team is dedicated and has put their blood and sweat to amazing use.
Vidhi Parikh helped build Khilti Pari from scratch and this is why she is so proud of what they have achieved: “I dreamt of volunteering for a cause that makes a change in the world. Starting a new NGO from scratch, is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so in that moment, I knew I had to take it. At first I didn’t think it would be long term, but ever since we started, my dreams for Khilti Pari and women empowerment in general have grown immensely.”
Khilti Pari has a lot of aspects that are extremely enjoyable and empowering, Sakshi Shah says, “Without a doubt, our trip to the villages when we meet the girls we are helping is a favorite memory. The smile on their faces and just the genuine affection we receive from them can make you emotional. It’s the most important moment as it gives you the energy to continue working because the reason stands right in front of you.”
Every member of the team is still learning as Khilti Pari continues to grow, and they will continue learning. Their journey has reached the heights that it deserves, Khilti Pari’s journey is only the beginning. There is so much more to come in the coming years and everyone is buckling up for a beautiful, eventful and successful lift off.
Jade Valenduc & Rune De La Haye
Vincent Vonk & Julie Gatineau
Jules Smekens & Howie Stevens
Akash Parikh & Karan Bagadia
Oceane Tilmanand & Lucia Nino
Niranjani Reddi & Eesha Gupta
Fredrika Isaksson & Vriti Doshi
Matteo Mirgone & Kahina Sebbane Louc
Roshni Zaveri & Kate Chapman
What our sponsors say
'India is a country of beautiful history and culture that has produced some incredible inventions and individuals. But the country faces many issues with a large population living in poverty and educationally disadvantaged. It is especially challenging for the millions of young girls who don't get basic education, don't understand their own rights and hence have little chance to escape the vicious cycle of poverty. The Khilti Pari project attempts to attack this problem at its roots - directly working with the families of such young girls to try and ensure they stay within the educational system - allowing them to have a chance at a better future for themselves and their families. What's especially heartwarming for me is to see youths from my own community here in Antwerp raising funds and taking out time to take on this challenge head on. They are planning to personally travel to these areas at their own cost and work personally with such families. In some ways, they can better help and guide these girls by being closer in age and having a better outlook of options available to young people today. I fully endorse and support these young people and wish them great success in this endeavor.' - Ravi Bhansali, Rosy Blue Group