Article (March-2020)


Women leaders in rural India

Mamta Saikia

Designation : -   Chief Executive Officer

Organization : -  Bharti Foundation, Gurugram


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Raani was pacing up and down her room and practicing in her head on how she would convince the Sarpanch (village head) to fill up a small ditch near her school. It was full of dirty water and had become a breeding ground for mosquitos. It required money and she would have to enlist the support of the entire village Panchayat (council), an unenviable task.

Raani belongs to a simple family of the same village, the first girl to secure a job from amongst all her relatives. She was a good teacher but shy and a bit tentative. Her job required her to face difficult situations, to take tough calls and to ensure that her School, students and staff performedto their best potential. She had recently been promoted as a Head Teacher and the transition was a little tougher than she had imagined. She was being enabled and mentored but every day brought in a new challenge and some of them sapped her of energy by the time the School's last bell rang.

I am sure many of us have lived through trials like Raani's and gone through similar experiences at some stage or the other during our careers.

I have been working with village-based Head Teachers and women teachers over the past 15 years in Bharti Foundation's Satya Bharti School Program. It has been an awe inspiring journey as I have very often encountered such experiences and stories that both inspire and drive me. So, I want to talk about women leaders in our villages, their challenges and triumphs.

Bharti Foundation has set up over 190 village based schools, which provide quality education to underprivileged children, absolutely free of cost. We make sure that school-age girls in our villages are in school. So, while we work with disadvantaged sections in the villages, it is a matter of pride for us that almost 50% of our students are girls. But what is more satisfying is that girl students have over 90% attendance at school - it shows the importance being given to their education by their parents. In the Class X and XII Board exams this year, the pass percentage of our girls was over 96%, against a national average rangingbetween 88% to 92%. When our students go out and compete in state or national level competitions, over 60% of the awards, scholarships or admission in meritorious schools are cornered by our girls. Our girl students occupy over 50% school-leadership positions - be it House Captains, Vice Captains or Class Monitors! Just last week, a boy and girl from one of our schools cleared the Foundation Test for Chartered Accountancy. Both of them are from underprivileged backgrounds. The girl is the daughter of a woman who cooks mid-day meals for our students! This all is so heartwarming.

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