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Mobilizing and Transforming Communities with EGG Village Meetings

To improve girls’ access to a quality education and encourage class attendance, EGG partners with schools to make changes and works within the community to transform its perspectives towards girls’ education. Gram Shiksha Sabha (GSS) meetings are held in villages with parents and community leaders to identify dropout girls and discuss the reasons behind this issue. The end result is to persuade parents to re-enroll their daughters back into school to continue their education.

In addition to safety concerns and an inefficient school environment that deter girls from going to school, there are also deep-rooted problems such as poverty, socio-economic background, religious beliefs and general lack of interest in education. In the traditional and tribal villages where EGG works, parents may be illiterate and do not understand the benefits of sending their children to school. Instead of education, their priorities may be early marriage for their daughters or requiring them to help with household responsibilities. Gender discrimination that favors boys may be an established norm for centuries. The GSS village meetings led by EGG aims to raise awareness about the role of education, and in particular, the need to educate girls, to break prejudices, change their mindset. And in the end, communities begin to transform their behavior and actions towards girls and support their valuable place in society.

Initially, EGG staff organized the Gram Shiksha Sabha meetings in the villages. As the EGG program matures, ownership of these meetings is gradually transferred to local government officials, i.e. the Gram Pradhan (village chief), Agawandi workers (village level employees from the Department of Women and Child Development), and students from Girls Parliament.The entire village is invited to participate, including school teachers, parents, caretakers and other influential people in the community.

IMPACT AND OUTCOMES

GSS meetings often become a venue for negative yet useful viewpoints from villagers when they focus on dropout girl students. Participants discuss the barriers of sending children to schools, and girls explain why they cannot continue their education. They also share positive experiences and come to a mutual understanding of the benefits from education. For example, in a meeting at the Haridwar school district, one of the women villagers mentioned “We observed that educated people are far ahead in every prospects. They have a good reputation in their family, society and village. They are independent.” Through these exchanges of both negative and positive ideas and experiences about girls’ education, the whole community is sensitized about the importance of education and some are persuaded to change their minds to re-enroll and support girls so they can continue going to school.

Beyond sensitizing the community people about education, GSS meetings also serve as a platform for finding solutions and utilizing available resources. For example, at a GSS meeting organized by the local Gram Pradhan, a widow wanted to educate her daughters but could not afford to send them to school with her limited earnings. In this particular situation, the EGG team stepped in and approached the Pradhan to seek ways to assist. As a result, the Gram Pradhan offered to help enroll any girl students who cannot continue their school due to economic problems and persuaded individuals in the community to make it possible. He also reasserted that if economic problems hinder girls from attending school, he is there to help. The Pradhan’s elder brother who was at the GSS meeting also offered to help in his capacity as a manager by leveraging his company’s corporate social responsibility policy.