From where I stand: “My message to every parent: Get your girls educated.”Ramat Khan, 21, comes from a small village near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, where poverty rates are high and the practice of child marriage lives on. Once married, most girls drop out of school and are expected to take care of the household and bear children. As a Community Educator with UN Women’s Second Chance Education programme, she encourages women and girls in her village to complete their education. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Khan continued to teach, sometimes via phone or home visits, while taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus. On World Teacher’s Day, 5 October, we celebrate teachers like Ramat Khan who are shaping the future of generations to come.
Interviewer: Soumya Samal
In 2014, when I went to Jaisalmer to take a computer course, people said, ‘What is the point? What will you do after learning about computers?’ Today, almost every job profile asks for computer proficiency.My parents had gone through their share of struggles; they understood the value of education. While they worked in farming and construction, they didn’t want me to work in the fields.
These days there are many incentives for girls to study, such as government scholarships, free laptops, and better mobility using scooters and bikes. Girls also feel motivated to stay in school when they have peer groups who are interested to study.
The cases of child marriage have also declined in the village, but there are some exceptions. In large families, when the father is unable to provide for everyone, girls are married off early.
I work as a community educator in my village. Roughly 60 percent of girls in the village have completed their 10th grade and around 25 percent of girls have completed their 12th grade (senior secondary/senior year of high school). This year, six girls have completed their graduation – an increase compared to last year when only two graduated.
The Covid-19 pandemic impacted entire families. Many people lost their jobs; those who used to work in the cities as daily wage earners came back to the village but found it difficult to adjust to village life. Many women and girls lacked access to employment and education. During the lockdowns, women and girls couldn’t come to the Women’s Empowerment Hub to attend classes like before. I guided them to study at home and if they had any doubts or difficulties, I would visit them in their homes to discuss the lessons.
Things have improved now as people are being more careful about Covid. Having seen the shortage of oxygen and other supplies across the country, they are mindful of the consequences and the costs. I have contributed to the efforts to clear misinformation about vaccination and other safety measures among the women of the village. Initially, they were apprehensive about getting a fever after vaccination and there were false rumours that made them hesitant about getting the vaccine. Now, these rumours and misinformation have been dispelled to a large extent and more villagers are getting vaccinated. There’s a robust system to vaccinate women and families: they are informed in advance about vaccination dates and sent reminders to generate a sense of urgency.
My message to every parent: get your girls educated. When every young woman and girl in this country becomes capable and self-sufficient, no one can pull us down. They will be a source of inspiration for their families and the whole world.”
UN Women’s Second Chance Education and Vocational Learning Programme enables women to re-enter formal education, learn vocational and entrepreneurial skills and connects them to employment and business opportunities. Since 2018, it has impacted more than 15,000 women in India from some of the poorest and most vulnerable areas. The programme in India is funded by BHP Foundation and implemented by Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) as the lead partner, along with other implementing, consortium and state government partners.
* The interview with Ramat was originally conducted in Hindi.
Editors: Urjasi Rudra and Christopher Dickson