Deborah Spencer, Sister India Executive Director
Sister India classes meet for two hours a day for an entire year. During that year, they learn essential skills and begin to understand their great value as women.
80% of the students graduate at a fifth-grade level of reading. Women who once lacked any math skills now perform double-digit subtraction. New business skills are learned, as well as healthy sanitation and nutrition habits.
The classes also teach about the importance of women, and their human rights under India’s laws. One of the lessons is to “Honor the Girl Child”.
The students learn about the dangers of giving their daughters in marriage as children, and of the health threats that result from child brides giving birth to babies. They learn about the importance of childhood education and the perils of child labor.
Before these classes, 41% of the students advocate child marriage, but by the end of the class year only 4% do. We see similar decreases in the number of students who advocate child labor, and increases in students who send their sons and their daughters to school.
The students learn, many for the first time in their lives, that God loves women of all races and groups of people, as equals. As women they are valuable, and they are loved.
While 80% of the students are women, men are not excluded from the classes. The men also learn about women's rights, and of the importance of sending their daughters to school instead of into early marriage or child labor.
A literacy class helped Meena escape a life of prostitution and hopelessness...
Meena never married. Desperate for income, she became a prostitute.
When she was 42, Meena was invited to a literacy class. She hesitated to join because she was not well-liked in the village. In spite of her fears, she enrolled.
The teacher told the other students to treat Meena with kindness. “She is like one of you,” the teacher said. “Illiterate, and wanting a better life.”
The acceptance and love from her teacher and fellow classmates gave Meena confidence. She mastered reading, writing, and basic math.
Meena found work as a laborer in the tea fields.
'I have a better future now'
She'd never touched chalk or a slate in her life.
At 38 years old, Durpa thought her chance at education was long past. Then, Durpa was invited to a literacy class!
When she started, Durpa couldn't recognize a single letter of her local language's alphabet. But she practiced hard. And soon, Durpa read letters ... then words ... and then whole sentences!
In one year, Durpa graduated at a 5th grade level of reading, writing, and math!
With joy, Durpa says, "Now I am able to read and write! Because of this, I have a better future now." Durpa reads the newspaper, keeping up on current events and news. She even found a better job.