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The Pandemic Represents A Crisis for India's Girls. Meet Some of the Organizations Working to Support Them.

A group of women with medium skin tones sits in a circle on the ground while books lay in front of them

By Ami Shah, Shadhika; Debadutta Dash, Surkarya; Dr. Deepak Sharma, RSKS India; Tiffany Drake, Girls Opportunity Alliance

This year, India is facing a resurgence of coronavirus that has devastated the country, killing hundreds of thousands of people and overwhelming its health care system. At the height of the crisis, 400,000 new infections were reported each day.

Though there are reasons for hope—India recently set a national record for most vaccinations given in one day and new cases are beginning to recede—there is a long road ahead. That’s especially true for the country’s young people. India has the largest population of adolescents in the world, and many of them are facing a daunting and uncertain future. Thousands of children in India have become orphans as a result of COVID-19. Child marriage and hunger are on the rise. And the education of millions of girls is at risk, compounding an already prevalent issue throughout the country.

We can’t let the pandemic derail the future for India’s girls. That’s why the Girls Opportunity Alliance, Sukarya, Shadhika, and RSKS India are working together to support adolescent girls in India during the pandemic and beyond.

Funding from the Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund will support our organizations to provide girls with scholarships, health education programs, and leadership training at a critical moment, because, around the world, studies predict that millions of girls will never return to school at all due to ripple effects from COVID-19.

We hope you will take a minute to learn more about our organizations below and support our important work in India today through the Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund (Opens in a new tab)—because when girls get the opportunities they deserve, it creates a better world for all of us.

Sukarya: Empowering girls through health education

 A group of students supported by Sukarya in Plasali Village in 2017

 A group of students supported by Sukarya in Plasali Village in 2017

At Surkarya, we have been supporting young women living in urban slum communities in Delhi and Haryana for more than 20 years. These communities have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks due to overcrowding and challenging living conditions. We are working to empower 2,000 girls in these communities through a year-long health education program. The course will teach girls about their bodies and adolescent health, train them in basic digital skills, and teach them how to navigate gender issues within their families. Girls will also receive a chance to become peer leaders and to help teach other girls in their communities about health and the importance of education. “Gender equality is an untenable human right and yet an elusive dream in many communities," says Meera Satpathy, Sukarya's founder and chairperson. "We must address this issue in a systematic and effective way until it is ingrained in all girls."

RSKS India: Educating girls in rural communities

A student studying at Pathshala School, Rajasthan in 2019

A student studying at Pathshala School, Rajasthan in 2019

In India’s remote rural communities, girls often face barriers to accessing education. Our work at RSKS India is dedicated to reaching these girls and giving them an empowering education. Through support from the Girls Opportunity Alliance, RSKS will work to impact 200 girls across Rajasthan, India by providing them with free schooling, classroom materials, and life skills education. The funds will also support the cost of five free schools’ operations and will help cover the cost of teachers and learning materials, while providing leadership training and sports programming for girls once it’s safe to gather in person. As our program’s leader Rajasthan Samgrah Kalyan Sansthan says, “When one girl is educated, she will spread that knowledge and impact to many others in her community. It’s a gift to all of us.”

Shadhika: Advancing gender justice through girls’ education

A Shadhika Scholar from the Jabala Action Research Organization hosting a community leadership workshop at a local high school, 2019

A Shadhika Scholar from the Jabala Action Research Organization hosting a community leadership workshop at a local high school, 2019

Through our Supports for Success and Scholarship programs, our work at Shadhika has ensured that 100 percent of our participants graduate from secondary school and go on to pursue a college education and a career in the formal sector. “A mindset of abundance defines Shadhika's feminist mission: the idea that lifting up women does not diminish the power and value of men, but only expands everyone’s welfare and dignity,” says My Lo Cook, Shadhika’s Executive Director adding that “when she leads, change follows. For her, for her community, and for the world." From offering scholarships to funding gender empowerment programming like financial literacy and self-advocacy, Shadhika supports girls to gain the education and the tools they need to lead the fight for gender justice in their communities. Through Girls Opportunity Alliance funding, we will provide up to 10 full college scholarships for young women in India. Once it’s safe to do so, Shadhika will also add two new local partners to run girl-centered after-school programs for secondary school students in the most marginalized communities in India. As Rekha, a young graduate supported by Shadhika says, "I want to prove through my education that if.a girl gets the opportunity to move forward, she can achieve a lot in her life."

To learn more about these organizations and to support them with their work, visit the Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund (Opens in a new tab) today.