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Pushpa from CRY supported
project ADHAR, Orissa

Watch Soha's Interview

“I strongly believe that all girl children should be given the opportunity to quality education and encouraged to have a career of their choice, just like I did.”

Soha Ali Khan
supports the girl child

Pushpa can hardly wait to get to school every morning. This lively 12 year old from the Kumipalli village of Orissa, India describes her time spent in the classroom as a window into a world she never knew existed. “Teacher didi tells us about a lot of new things that I had no idea about,” she says shyly. “My friends and I have a lot of fun too!” This is indeed a welcome change for girls like Pushpa who some time ago spent time engaged in household chores.

Almost 70% of Indian children attend local public schools, which face serious issues like teacher absenteeism, poor infrastructure and teaching materials. More than 50% of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12. In Pushpa’s village for example, one-third of the students dropped out of school altogether. “I found it difficult to understand what was being taught, and the midday meal was not very good either, so I stopped going to school,” Pushpa explains. Like many girls in her village, Pushpa spent her time helping her mother at home and looking after her younger siblings. However, other children who drop out of school face the risk of either being pushed into marriages or into child labor.

The village of Kumipalli has managed to overcome this threat with the support of CRY and their on-ground partners. By organizing community mobilization initiatives, adults from the village worked in groups to discuss and demand better quality schools, including new teachers. An educated girl from the village was appointed as a teacher. Using participative learning methods, she helped create a model village school.

Within a few months there were 2 teachers in the school and 85 children enrolled themselves that year alone. Today, not a single child under 14 is out of school in Kumipalli. Two new classrooms were sanctioned for the school within the next year.

The community groups formed in Pushpa’s village continue their work to remove the barriers of gender, caste and class from the community - they have proved that the concept of a free school that is of good quality is not a pipe dream. But it will not materialize unless we work towards it.

Living proof of lasting change can be seen in children like Pushpa, who is today, an active participant in her class. She loves reading books and is a keen sports enthusiast. She is determined that her family’s economic hardships will not stop her from continuing her education. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” Pushpa declares proudly. CRY America has supported the lives of over 358,000 children like Pushpa through support to 52 projects in India and the USA.

I strongly believe that all girl children should be given the opportunity to quality education and encouraged to have a career of their choice, just like I did.

This International Girl Child’s Day (September 24, 2011), I urge you to reaffirm your support to the issue of the girl child and to CRY America.

Soha Ali Khan, Actor
(Daughter of the legendary actor Sharmila Tagore)

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