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Pupil or wife?

October 12, 2020

reading time: 7 minutes

by Laura Gianesi, LGT

Educate Girls schools education India

How the non-profit organization Educate Girls enables female students in India to have a better future.

“Our child will eventually get married anyway. Why should she go to school?” These are the words used by many parents to justify their decision to keep their daughters at home. India has one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates. Only 15 percent of children in primary school are able to read a simple story in Hindi. For girls, the figures are even bleaker.

In rural India, only half as many girls go to school as boys, 40 percent of them do not even complete fourth grade. Poverty is not the only reason for this gap. Locals often believe that instead of doing math, a girl should learn to cook. Instead of practicing how to write, she should clean, get water and take care of her younger siblings. In addition, parents in rural areas such as Rajasthan in northern India have concerns about a number of issues: the long way to school, the poor quality of instruction and the inadequate infrastructure of the buildings. Boys and girls often do not have separate bathrooms. 

This is where the non-profit organization Educate Girls comes in. “We systematically promote the enrolment of girls by talking to the people in the villages and seeking out daughters who are staying at home. Our Team Balika is responsible for this”, explains Maharshi Vaishnav, Chief of Staff of Educate Girls. This team consists of women and men aged between 18 and 25 who are among those in their villages with the best education. Educate Girls offers them workshops on data collection as well as on communication, presentation and IT skills before the volunteers go to the villages with the aim of convincing families to send their daughters to school.

Educate Girls schools education India
Educate Girls talks to families directly when they do not want to send their daughters to school. Image: Nadine Haegeli

LGT Venture Philanthropy has been supporting Educate Girls in a number of different ways since 2010 – not only with USD 2.9 m, but also through professional expertise. Among other things, LGT employees have provided support at information events for investors in India and played an important role in launching the world’s first development impact bond in education for Educate Girls. Which is why Vaishnav adds: “LGT Venture Philanthropy has made a major contribution to the development of our organization.” One of the most important measures for support is the LGT Impact Fellows. 

Thomas Kagerer, Investment Director at LGT Venture Philanthropy, joined LGT as an Impact Fellow. He explains the idea behind the concept saying: “When we have found an organization that meets our high standards, passes our intensive due diligence process and convinces our Board of Trustees, we invest more than just money to help the organization grow. Equally important to financial support is access to talents.” After his fellowship, Kagerer joined LGT Venture Philanthropy, where he now helps to recruit and support LGT Impact Fellows. 

More than money

These fellowships are offered based on the needs of the organization being supported – be it in communications, management, human resources or another department. “For applicants, it’s not about financial compensation, as that is quite low. Instead, they are highly motivated to do something for society”, says Kagerer.

David Hayman is one of the nine LGT Impact Fellows who has supported the growth of Educate Girls. He was responsible for developing the expansion strategy. Hayman still remembers how he accompanied Educate Girls’ Team Balika for the first time. Together with the volunteers, he met families, tried to comprehend their views as well as understand their fears and their reasons for not letting their daughters learn math or how to write. The first thing he needed to do was therefore grasp the situation from the ground up. “Staying at the headquarters in Mumbai is not enough. You have to get to know Educate Girls’ processes from start to finish. Each region, every state, has a different social, cultural and economic background”, says the Londoner. 

Every girls counts

Hayman not only met families, but also spoke to students, teachers, volunteers and public officials in order to develop the expansion strategy of Educate Girls and then support its implementation in 2015 and 2016. As part of this process, he developed an expansion plan for regions in India that were not yet covered. “The expansion tool will help employees identify and select new target regions and to build up the offering in other regions”, explains Hayman. This is in fact already the case: his original strategy is the basis for the expansion plan for the coming five years.

Educate Girls school India
Sometimes, homework has to be done sitting on the floor. Image: Nadine Haegeli

Before traveling to India as an LGT Impact Fellow, Hayman worked in the education sector in London for six years. Among other things, he co-founded an NGO in the United Kingdom that promotes community networks in state schools. “But I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and achieve something in an area that I had been dealing with for years”, he explains. A friend sent him a link to a job posting looking for an LGT Impact Fellow with experience in organizational strategy and operational planning, who would work at Educate Girls. Hayman was excited about the opportunity to help shape an organization that has a significant impact on the lives of children. “What’s more, I was also going to get to know a new culture. It seemed like the perfect job for me”, he recalls.

In the end, he stayed at Educate Girls for an additional six months – like many other Fellows who have contributed to the growth of an organization. Today, the NGO is highly successful. Since it was founded in 2007, more than 300 000 girls have been enrolled in school, 93 percent of them remained in school. By 2021, Educate Girls aims to extend its reach by 56 percent to over 2.5 m children. In addition, with the help of digital learning resources, the organization is also increasingly focusing on the quality of instruction. Thanks to these measures, over 650 000 students have improved their learning outcomes. Vaishnav says: “This is a partnership where both parties, LGT Venture Philanthropy and Educate Girls, have the same agenda: to tangibly improve the lives of marginalized girls in the rural, remote and underserved areas of India. We are achieving this step by step – every single girl counts.”

Philanthropic committment

Educate Girls has been a LGT Venture Philanthropy portfolio organization since 2011. Additionally to grants, the organization receives access to LGT VP's network and professional support.

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