“Nishtha is next to my Mom and without ‘Shikkhai Hatiyar’ project so many girls like me could not have pursued their school education. The support I have received so far from ‘Shikkai Hatiyar’ project helped me dream big and I hope someday I would able to get established in life and help others too.”
– Jaya, 13 years old
Established in London, Karuna Trust have worked with local community groups for over 30 years to help South Asia’s poorest people lead meaningful and dignified lives. They are committed to human development, enabling people to escape poverty, access their legal rights and participate fully in society.
One of PAWA’s goals is to support the advancement of education of teenage girls in Asia, often by providing financial support programmes of education and training. PAWA was able to donate £5,000 in 2015 to Karuna’s Adolescent Girl Empowerment Through Education Project in West Bengal. This was the first year of a four year programme working with the Dalit community.
With PAWA’s help, this project has managed to support 450 girls from the poorest families in West Bengal by maximising girl’s admission and retention in local schools, by reducing incidences of child marriage and by improving knowledge on reproductive health, hygiene, and basic rights.
Discrimination against girls in this area has been a major problem. In particular, parents do not see any value in educating girls, who will traditionally be married off at an early age. Thus, only 30% of girls in West Bengal complete primary education, and only 1.8% qualify for secondary exams. By providing school fees, books, clothes and appropriate educational support that is relevant to the local community, Karuna and PAWA have helped improve the lives of many young women.
The region is also renowned as a target rich environment for traffickers of young girls. Local government and media reports put the number of disappeared women and girls in the region to be as high as 8,000 per year. Participation and leadership opportunities through girls’ and women’s groups focusing on these issues have empowered and educated these women. By organising these groups and training their leaders, Karuna has given this community the tools to mobilise the wider community. Their learning is disseminated amongst all the members, as well as building solidarity amidst themselves.
PAWA has continued to support the positive influence Karuna is having in this region by donating another £5,000 in 2016 which would affect 1,000 girls.
In 2017 PAWA supported this programme for the third year by donating £5,000.
In 2018, for the fourth year of this programme PAWA donated £10,000 which directly covered the tuition fees for 727 girls and support generally 900 girls.
PAWA supported the last phase of 4 year Nishtha programme that covers educational costs for girls from impoverished, rural Dalit communities in 2019.