|© 2007 Going To School|
|Laxmirani Mahji, 17, takes aim in archery class and uses the ‘Girl Stars’ programme to make plans for her future.|
By Anwulika Okafor
NEW YORK, USA, 26 January 2007 – Laxmirani Majhi, 17, also known as Laxmi, is an international-level archer and a student at the Tata Sports Academy in Jamshedpur, India. Laxmi is also one of India’s ‘Girl Stars’, young women who are breaking away from socio-economic discrimination to achieve success.
Living in a poor village where many girls did not attend school, Laxmi’s parents knew that an education would be an important factor in improving her life, so they made her schooling a priority.
“Education has made me who I am – it was only because I went to school that I got a chance to be selected to train as an archer. Now I compete internationally and travel the world. School gave me this. I thank my parents for sending me to school,” says Laxmi.
Changing India’s educational stats
The educational divide between the genders is dire in many parts of India. Just 48 per cent of the country’s women are literate. And although 87 per cent of all girls are enrolled in primary school, only 47 per cent go on to secondary school.
The lack of educational opportunities for girls also means fewer prospects for employment as adults, limiting economic viability for women and their families. Despite this stark reality, many young women are still being kept from school because of stigma based on their gender and social status.
|© 2007 Going To School|
|Tensheen Bano, 24, mentors young girls at the hostel where she works to earn extra money to pay for her schooling.|
The ‘Girl Stars’ project is working to bridge the education gap by showing how, given the opportunity, women and girls can make great strides educationally and economically.
Through a series of films produced by Going to School, a non-governmental organization supported by UNICEF, ‘Girl Stars’ shares stories of 16 women and girls – from some of India’s most disadvantaged communities – who have all succeeded through drive and determination.
‘Create your own road’
Tensheen Bano, a 24-year-old warden at a girls’ hostel, fought to go to school over the protests of her family members. She earned enough to pay for her own education by teaching other children, but the road was never easy. Time and again, she had to persuade her family to let her go to school and on to college.
“In our hearts, all girls long to be known, to be respected, to have their own identity, but often say to themselves, ‘What choices do I have?’” says Tehsheen. “I have learned one thing: If you are educated, there are many choices in front of you.”
It is this very sense of self-advocacy that the ‘Girl Stars’ project hopes to instil in the hearts of young girls and their parents. The project aims to encourage parents to make certain that their daughters are going to school – and to stimulate broader progress toward quality education for all children, including girls.