The state of Rajasthan has 9 of India’s 26 worst gender gap districts in education, where 68% of girls are married below the legal age of 18. Of the girls who are enrolled in school in Rajasthan, 40% leave class before class 5. Due to the disappointing status of women and girls in rural Rajasthan, especially in the Meo Muslim dominated area, their participation in education is extremely low. In Mewat, there is a huge gap in male-female literacy: male literacy stands as 83.7%, and female 56.2%, per the 2011 census. Mewat region ranks among the most regressive districts in all of India in terms of girls’ education. In the past few months, mob violence, right-wing “cow vigilantism” and rising communalism in the name of cow protection has further marginalized Meo-Muslims in Alwar, who are primarily cattle herders. This region is also notorious for crime and gender-based violence which means that girls’ mobility is severely curtailed. The scarcity of secondary schools combined with conservative local attitudes toward females has terrible consequences for adolescent girls. In Alwar district, where Ibtada works, the sex ratio is abysmal: 895 girls for every 1,000 boys which are even lower than Rajasthan’s average of 928 girls for every 1,000 boys. The state government records for district Alwar, show that only 40% of girls enroll in secondary school education in grades XI and only 39% of girls in class XII. The reasons for dropout are the poor quality of school education leading to failure in exams, distance to schools, parents’ inability to bear school fees, girls getting married early, and reduced mobility of girls once they reach puberty.
In 1996-97, Ibtada’s founder, Rajesh Singhi, conducted a benchmark survey of Mewat for the Government of Rajasthan that highlighted the scale of backwardness in this area. Based on his findings, he began Ibtada, which was formally registered in 1997. While understanding the backwardness in Mewat, it was clear that women and girls were the worst affected and most likely to bear the brunt of discrimination–whether social, political, economic—or of natural disasters (droughts etc). Promoting institutions for women is core to Ibtada’s mission to empower girls and women; to change power relations in the society, to foster decision-making power among women, to enhance their degree of control over resources and provide them space for visibility and collective action. Ibtada’s major programs include: 1) savings and credit-based women’s institutions (Self Help Groups, Clusters and Federations); 2) girls’ education programs (learning centres for girls till 5th standard, who are then mainstreamed into government schools, with life skills education and remedial coaching for girls in classes 8-10); 3) strengthening Right to Education in government schools by improving teaching and learning processes, and capacity building of school management committees; 4) livelihoods (productivity enhancement and capacity building of women farmers on agriculture, dairy animals and goats); and 5) literacy classes for adult women.
EMpower’s 6th grant to Ibtada will support them to continue their education support; life skills training and 21st-century skill development. This grant will support 1,775 girls and young women to improve their education, life skills and employability skills.
Primary Location: Rajasthan
Funded Since: 2013
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