We believe strongly in the value of educating girls. Not only does an education help the girls achieve lives of reduced poverty, but they become better mothers so benefits extend through multiple generations. Selvamani is an example from our program in Southern India. She comes from the Dalit tribe, also known as “untouchables,” and faced desperate poverty. But her parents enrolled her in our JONG after-school program which helps tribal girls succeed in school. Unlike most Dalit girls who rarely attended school passed the 5th grade, Selvamani completed the tenth grade.

Unfortunately, her father arranged a bad marriage for her, and her husband deserted her shortly after their third child was born. Her father helped support her while she raised her children alone, but the father’s sudden death left her so hopeless and forlorn that she contemplated suicide. Once again, our JONG program stepped in to help and she joined our tailoring program. After 6 months of training she had the vocational skills to become economically independent.

Through all this, she did not neglect her children. In fact, she enrolled them in the JONG after-school program and continued to support and encourage their education. Eventually she became one of the teachers of the program and now helps all the children of her village achieve greater success in school. Her children are excelling and have high grades. What’s more, they all aspire to move well beyond their traditional caste roles. The oldest daughter, in the 11th grade, wants to become a doctor. The younger daughter, in the 9th grade, wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. The son, in the 6th grade, wants to become an officer in the central government and hopes, among other things, to make sure that all villagers, no matter how poor, have access to good drinking water.

Such aspirations would have been unheard of a generation ago, but an educated mother is a great force for positive change. We are proud to be fostering such changes among hundreds of tribal girls in Southern India.