UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Shakira, during her visit to Rajasthan met girls from Kasturba Gandhi Ballika Vidyalas to know more about their lives and issues concerning them. KGBV is a residential educational programme for the most disadvantaged girls
By Geetanjali Master
UDAIPUR, India, 15 November 2011 – When the diminutive pop superstar, Shakira, known around the globe, came to meet her and fourteen other girls, it was the moment of a lifetime for Deepika, “I can’t believe that I am finally going to meet her and get the chance to tell her about my life… I have been dreaming of this ever since I heard she would be visiting Udaipur.” she UNICEF Global Ambassador Shakira,
Young Deepika’s dreams turned into a reality when, for half an hour, she and other adolescent girls studying at the local Kasturba Gandhi Ballika Vidyalaya (KGBV) residential school, sat with Shakira and spoke with her about their lives, some of the challenges they face, their hopes and their dreams.
Supported by UNICEF, the KGBV programme helps girls from the most disadvantaged communities go to school, fulfill their right to education and grow to their fullest potential. UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Rajasthan to help reach girls in some of the state’s most marginalized and hardest-to-reach communities.
“I had so much fun today,” said Kusum. “I sang, danced and laughed. I shared my life story and how I was married off so young just because my parents are poor. And even through the struggles I have tried my best to become educated… When someone so famous spends time with us and is eager to know about our lives we feel so much self-worth and pride.”
As Shakira listened attentively, the girls spoke about poverty, child marriage, difficult geographical conditions and how these obstacles often deprive them of their much needed education. Before coming to the KGBV residential school, most of these girls were extremely shy and had little ambition in life. But once here, each one of them went through a metamorphosis. In addition to learning new academic skills, they have also learned crucial life skills and gained important exposure to the world outside their small villages.
For Shakira, it was inspiring to hear these girls’ stories. “It is very special to spend time with these girls, internalize their challenges, their efforts to get an education and to make a better life for themselves and for future generations.”
The gender gap in Rajasthan is especially high and the low level of education for girls in the state is a major concern. In many families, girl children are not highly valued; they do not get enough attention at home and are often removed from school to take care of younger siblings or to do household chores.
Child marriage is also a big problem in Rajasthan and the state’s child sex ratio - the number of girls born for every one thousand boys – is decreasing at an alarming rate. UNICEF and the Government of Rajasthan are working closely to reduce this gender gap and a number of targeted interventions and programmes for girls are under way.
“I believe adolescent girls can become powerful agents of change to bring about a movement on girls’ education in the state” said Mr. Samuel Mawunganizde, Chief of the UNICEF office for Rajasthan. “Shakira’s interaction with these girls has reinforced our conviction that diverse members of civil society, including the private sector, need to play a critical role in ensuring that adolescent girls don’t miss out on quality education.”