The need for education for girls in Indian Villages
In the mica mining areas of India access to education particularly for girls is very low for many reasons; no schools, schools too far away, no bathroom facilities for girls; little understanding amongst adults on the need for education for girls as opposed to boys. In the mica mining areas the % age of girls/women who are literate falls to as low as 20%. In most villages no girl has ever gone to middle school, let alone high school.
A major challenge for girls to get access to school is the travel, often through the jungle, avoiding, bears, leopards and snakes, these paths may be as long as 10 km. For boys this does not seem to be such a challenge and they can often stay overnight in the school, for girls this travel is a major challenge and the girls also cannot stay overnight as this is seen to be culturally incorrect, also this travel can expose the girls to child traffickers who may steal them. This is an area of child marriages, from the age of 10, often to much older men, sometimes these men are fronts for child prostitution, and they may provide a small dowry and gain rights to the girls. In many cases the families have no choice as they are in debt to the local traders/money lenders and are forced to sell their children, especially girls.
Bikes making changes for girls
Girls are able to get to school, due to two young children Thomas and Tamsin (12 and 14 - children of David Hircock – ELC employee), who raised money to buy over 30 bicycles for the village girls. Not only can the girls now get to school but are able to travel to nearby villages and teach the children in these villages, that they have basic human rights and rights within the Indian Constitution one of these is the fundamental right to education (up to 14 years of age), that child marriages are illegal, etc. The girls who receive these bikes are often found to be of the lowest caste, these girls are able to teach other children of the village to ride (who are often of the higher caste), thus empowering the girls and helping integrate them into village affairs. Many of these girls were engaged in child labour, often working in hazardous situations in the mining industry sometimes working 16 hours a day. The children now attend school and are part of a growing community of "Child Friendly Villages” where every child has rights and access to education.
Story of one girl and her bike
This bike has allowed Raj to travel to school, she has taught other children in surrounding villages on their rights to education. Along with several other children they recently visited the District Magistrate, to demand a middle and high school in their village, the magistrate who had previously agreed that the school was to be built. The Magistrate asked Raj Kumari why a Tribal Child like herself wanted to learn to read and write – her answer was “One day I want to be a District Magistrate like yourself”. Raj will soon be the first girl in her village to go to High School; she understands her rights and will be a new order of young women to fight for the rights of girls in the village and in India.
One bike can do this! Cost of bike (with tool kit and spares) - $60.00
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