Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vikas Patnaik and his family visit IIMPACT centres in Mewat ...his experience in his own words

On Januray 7, 2011, we visited the Kankadkhedi and Raipuri centers of IIMPACT.

Walking into the first center was like walking into a temple. There were throngs of people there to greet us – children, their parents, village elders – all with smiles and the same glint of hope in their eyes. They garlanded us to welcome us. I was moved to tears. We entered a very old room, painted in red, with cracked walls and a faint natural light diffusing in from outside, where the little girls sat in line, their backs against the walls, their heads covered in shawls to bear the fierce cold, their eyes peering into us with a heartwarming mix of curiosity and shyness. Upon instruction from two young and very able teachers, the girls then performed songs, recited poems, solved arithmetic problems on a small blackboard in the corner – all with an uplifting confidence, rarely faltering – offering a glimpse of a future, secular India, and reaffirming the notion that no country can truly progress until its women are educated and empowered.

The second center was a few miles further south, in another small village with no paved roads and no proper sewage system. This center was painted a lush blue; recently so, I found out, thanks to one of the oldest women of the village, who now lives all by herself with no one to look after her. Again the same overwhelming welcome, the positive energy and the humanity, the air so full of hope and posing the question again and again in my mind – how is it that utter deprivation preserves the innocence of the human spirit? In addition to the children’s routine of poems, reading and math, blankets were distributed at this center, in the hopes that the girls would be able to fend off the looming cold from the surrounding mustard fields.

If there is such a thing as a religious experience, this was it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Change the World, Invest In Girls

An article in the current issue of Time Magazine, titled “To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls“, talks about the importance of investing in girls to reduce poverty and disease in the developing world. Across most of the developing world, very few girls are educated and most end up tending house, cleaning and cooking by the age of 12. In parts of Africa, less than 1 in 5 girls make it to secondary school. Almost half are married by the time they are 18 and 1 in 7 are married by the time they are 15. It is shocking to learn that the leading cause of death worldwide for girls aged 15 to 19 is complications from pregnancy.

This vicious cycle can be broken easily by education. Just an extra year of primary schooling for girls results in 10% to 20% better wages for them. Studies have found that girls who stay in school marry later and have fewer children. And girls and women who earn an income, end up investing 90% of it in their families – compared to only 30% to 40% for men. Although the benefits are huge it is surprising that less than 2% of development funds go towards girls and 90% of youth programs are designed for boys. While there are many factors for this neglect it is partly because of cultural attitudes towards girls across most of the world. This is slowly changing but a lot more needs to be clearly done.

The article is very relevant to the work being done by IIMPACT and lays out a very compelling case for our own mission to educate girls in the rural and backwards regions of India. You can view the original article at by following this link:,9171,2046045,00.html.