Udaan, investing in girls.

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Higher education bridges the path from classroom to workplace, enabling learners to upgrade their skills and knowledge continuously. In India, while much attention is given to boys’ higher education, girls often face barriers to pursuing higher education due to factors such as lack of funds, motivation, and restrictive social and cultural norms. This results in continued gender inequality and slows down the progress of our nation.

ChildFund India’s “Udaan fellowship program” addresses this issue by supporting meritorious and deserving girls from disadvantaged backgrounds with scholarships to pursue higher education and build their careers. Udaan Fellowship Program is a unique academic excellence and personality development program that offers financial support, career counseling, mentorship, job-oriented training, 21st-century life skills development, and exposure visits. These skills support long-term success as the fellows learn to interact positively and productively, understand their emotions and strengths, make informed decisions, and manage their time effectively. “I didn’t know about life skills and how they help our life. This session has helped me to understand myself better,” says V. Janshi, a fellow from Vijayawada and one of many girls benefiting from life skills sessions. The program also mobilizes families to support girls in pursuing higher education through awareness, regular home visits, and check-ins.

The program was started in 2013 with a small batch in 4 northern states. The program has since expanded across 12 states. Currently, 1100 fellows are benefiting from it. In the current implementation phase of southern states supported by ChildFund Germany, out of 72 scholars, 33 have completed higher education, with many already working or pursuing further studies. This program not only significantly impacts the lives of many girls, but also inspires other girls and parents in their communities to achieve socioeconomic independence.

Stories of Impact

Sandhya, a 24-year-old from Bangalore, considered dropping out of school when she was faced with financial hardships after her father’s death. With no one to turn to, she started to look for scholarships. That is when she learned about the Udaan program. The scholarship supported Sandhya to complete her Bachelors in Urban Planning. Today, she works as a Research Associate for a sustainability-focused company, has built a new family home, and supports her mother. She also extends financial and in-kind assistance to others in her community, whenever possible.

Muskan, a dedicated student from Bangalore, dreamed of completing her Bachelors in Commerce. Her father’s income as a vegetable vendor was insufficient, and the COVID-19 pandemic worsened their family’s financial situation. Muskan’s family considered marrying her off due to the financial pressures. However, the Udaan program scholarship enabled her to continue her education and earn her degree. Inspired by the help she received, she wants to support other students in the future.

Anitha, from Hyderabad, faced financial hardships as her father’s pension was insufficient to support her education. She started tutoring children to help make ends meet but couldn’t manage her college fees. The Udaan program provided a scholarship to cover her expenses. Today, Anitha works as a Jr. HR Generalist after completing her MBA in Human Resources, supporting her family, and aspiring to manage HR operations in a larger company

Educated, Empowered, and Agents of Change

The stories of Sandhya, Anitha, and Muskan highlight the positive impact of investing in girls’ education. The Udaan program’s efforts align with the Government of India’s initiatives to transform the education landscape in India. Initiatives such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, scholarships, and the NEP 2020 are bridging the gender gap and promoting inclusiveness and quality education. As we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this concerted effort will continue to support more girls to pursue higher education and create a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

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