Non formal education (NFE) is for illiterate women who have had little or no formal schooling. The idea is to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills. Something as simple as this can enable a woman to seek employment and open her own back account. There are 18 non-formal education centres organised by Karuna-Shechen.
We visited the NFE centre in Gopal Khera village, housed in a communal room in one of the village buildings, with some nice bright posters on the wall; the women were learning the Hindi and English alphabets and practicing writing their names. There were about 30 women in the class. Gopal Khera is one of the larger villages with a population of 1312 and has been in the Karuna-Shechen programme since 2007. Karuna Shechen is committed to bringing improvements in direct intervention to the poorest villages.
The NFE programme gives essential life skills to help women improve their income level. Alongside basic numeracy and literacy skills women are taught a little geography, administration and politics to increase their awareness of life beyond their village. Just fifteen pounds can provide a week’s worth of one non-formal education for 30 women. This small amount can be life changing for many women.
Women who have been enrolled in NFE have gone on to participate in candle-making workshops. Thanks to your support through Shining Hope, Karuna-Shechen was able to offer ninety women places on a candle making workshop.
The program was an immediate success and was extended because of higher than anticipated enrolment figures. “We are very pleased with the enthusiastic response from the villagers,” explains Shamsul Akhtar, Karuna-Shechen’s India Director. “Our objective is to empower rural women by teaching them an income-generating skill.” Without the NFE for many women this opportunity would not have been possible.
For the women who now produce the candles they are able to generate income by selling them at the local markets. Karuna-Shechen provides all the necessary raw materials, as well as a dedicated space to work in at the centre in Bodhgaya. The first candles were sold during the Hindu Festival of Lights (Diwali) at an average price of $1.
Vanessa is Communications Associate at the Shining Hope Foundation. She has recently joined the team and will manage the charity’s relationships with its current partners abroad. She has travelled extensively in Asia and lived in Hong Kong and later in Vietnam where she worked on various humanitarian projects.