"Humara doctor ban ne ka sapna tha. Bahot dur hain toh doctor humare gaon mein ate nahi hai ...hospital bhi dur hain. School bhi dur hain toh hum ja nahi pate warna hum yehi chahte the ki padhai kar ke doctor banenge aur gaon ke liye kuch kar paenge (I always dreamed to be a doctor. Since our village is not well-connected, the hospital is far away and there are no doctors to treat patients. I had to drop out because the school is at a distance. I wanted to study and become a doctor so that I could help people from my village)," said a 17-year-old girl from a village in Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh, country's most populous state, has reported a substantial drop out rate in the recent past. According to the reports, the state has an annual drop out rate of 8.58 per cent at the primary level which is more than double the nationwide average rate of 4.13 per cent.
Several villages in Uttar Pradesh such as Sonbhadra and Mirzapur have educational institutions facilitating studies for primary and upper primary students (I-VIII). However, ones the students, particularly girls, get through the elementary level they are left with no means to continue their education.
Locals have shared that the children who choose to continue classes for high school have to walk at least five to 15 kilometres through dense terrain and forest lands in the absence of any mode of transport. Meanwhile, the others who drop out of school resort to menial jobs for survival. Very often financial dependence has been the root cause of such out-of-school girls falling prey to severe atrocities.
The situation has turned grim especially during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a survey, about 54 per cent of girls were uncertain about returning to their schools after the pandemic. It further added that the pandemic not only affected their learning but also added to uncertainties about continuing their education. The digital divide has also played a key role in widening the gap.
Hope Welfare Trust
In rural areas, educated girls and young women hold the potential to lead the path and break the cycle of poverty and violence. Realising that educating such women is of utmost importance to empower the individual as well as the community, Hope Welfare Trust, a volunteer-based not-for-profit organisation, has distributed cycles to girls in a number of villages to enable them to commute to schools and colleges at a distance.
The organisation has been working towards solving social issues in villages of Uttar Pradesh for the last five years. The team has been dedicated to the causes of identifying and implementing ground-level solutions to uplift the rural population.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Divyanshu Upadhyay, social activist and secretary at Hope Welfare Trust said that they launched the initiative to distribute cycles to the girls belonging from economically disadvantaged families. As many as 50 cycles have been distributed till now.
He explained that arranging funds was one of the toughest challenges for his team, especially during COVID-19 when every section of the society have been financially hit. However, they were able to raise money for 25 cycles while the other lot of 25 cycles was funded by Bollywood actor Sonu Sood, according to Divyanshu.
On being asked about what prompted his team to take up social work, Divyanhsu said, "In 2015, I, Ravi Mishra along with a few friends were returning from a birthday celebration. On the way, we saw an old woman and her two children running their bare hands onto the garbage bin, looking for food. We were still studying but that particular incident stayed with us until we made a decision to do something about it and the only way to bring a change was, to begin with where we lived."
"We started visiting the villages and slums to identify and shortlist the areas that needed immediate help. Among the firsts, our volunteers visited Khushiyari village and found out that lack of electricity and road connectivity were two main issues. However, domestic abuse stood out as the biggest stumbling block with alcoholism and gambling as the contributing factors," remembered Divyanshu.
He recalled one of the elder women in the village requesting him to stop the rampant practice of alcohol consumption and gambling.
"Bachua humare bijli aawein ya na aawein, gaon me kono vikash ho ya na ho. Humare gaon mein bas jua-daaru band karwa dijiye. (Whether we get access to electricity or not, please stop the practice of gambling and alcoholism in our village) she had said."
The social activist further stated that they would encounter young children sitting alongside the men and gambling. The team believed that educating and empowering women could inspire and elevate the community. Hence, the volunteers started taking classes to teach basic reading and writing skills which would help them learn about several government incentives and to avail its benefit. Additionally, they were taught the fundamentals of gram panchayat system and how to lodge complaints in case of domestic abuse
Eventually, they were trained in self-defence, opening bank accounts and other skills like stitching and knitting. A group of 25 empowered women were selected to form the 'Green Group'.
These women would don green sarees and would make rounds of the village. They would visit households to educate people about the ill-effects of drinking, gambling and abusing. They were connected with the volunteers to report if things went out of hand and also to report instances of domestic violence and get the accused behind the bars.
The volunteers then invited the Superintendent of Police of the area to felicitate these women. The women were provided with identity cards and announced that they would be considered Police-Mitra and any complaint from them would invite immediate and strict action.
To fulfil the dreams and to empower young girls, Hope Welfare Trust needs the support of the country and The Logical Indian Community Members. To donate for the cycle initiative, you can connect with Divyanshu on +91 7785814237