Around the world, girls with disabilities are being denied their right to an education. With a shortage of properly trained staff, inaccessible schools, and lack of appropriate learning resources, girls face barriers at every turn. Many have no choice but to drop out of school. It’s not their choice, and the cycle of poverty continues.
In Nepal, the story is no different. Girls growing up in poor families find the odds stacked against them - meaning an education is out of reach.
Girls with disabilities face additional obstacles and getting an education is the best way to safeguard them from the dangers of forced marriage and gender-based violence, but most schools lack the resources or knowledge to support them. Dropping out of school leaves girls with disabilities vulnerable to gender-based violence and underage marriage. In Nepal, 1.3 million girls are married before the age of 15 1.
VSO’s ENGAGE (Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education) project is empowering young girls to get back into education and on the right path. Volunteers ensure that girls' needs are identified as early as possible, and work closely with them to ensure no girl is left behind in her education. Girls like Izna*, who is deaf.
Izna, 13, was born with a hearing impairment. Although she was desperate to learn, her school lacked the resources to support her, and her teachers were unable to communicate with her. So Izna had no choice but to drop out of school.
VSO national volunteer, Nitin Singh, alongside Sign Language interpreter Deepa, taught Izna sign language so she could communicate with others, including her teachers and peers. He also assigned her a Big Sister called Tarannum who helps with her homework. Tarannum meets with the family often to help them understand what they can do to fully support Izna’s return back into education and keep her safe from the threat of forced marriage and gender-based violence.
I strongly believe that education can change everything” - Nitin, VSO volunteer
Izna’s parents are so happy to see that she’s thriving in school. With VSO’s support, Izna has learned the alphabet and has moved onto maths, plus she loves reading and writing. Her family are now able to prioritise Izna’s education, and she’s gaining the confidence and skills to take control of her future.
Through ENGAGE, VSO volunteers are able to turn the tide against poverty, forced marriage, and gender-based violence for girls with disabilities. We’re creating opportunities for girls by getting them back into education and away from oppressive environments that keep them in the cycle of poverty.
There are many other girls like Izna who need your support right now
Volunteers like Nitin working on the ENGAGE project are doing incredible work to help get girls with disabilities back into education, and they aim to transform the lives of over 2,500 girls. But there are still so many more who need our help. Girls in rural Nepal come from families with poor economic backgrounds – they’re unable to keep up with the costs of stationery and uniforms and lockdowns due to COVID-19 have only made this worse. As well as support from volunteers and Big Sisters, VSO can provide girls with the learning materials they need, plus financial support to families. We can transform the futures of thousands of girls and their families in rural Nepal, but we need your help to do this.
Please, donate now to give another girl like Izna a chance to get back into education.
*Izna is a pseudonym used to protect her identity.
1. UNFPA-UNICEF Global programme to end child marriage. Country profile: Nepal 2020.
Hear from Lameck Dition Sandram from Malawi, who volunteered in Sierra Leone where he worked on VSO’s Unlocking Talent (UT) project, applying his 25 years of experience in education to train staff and collect real-time project implementation data.
As we move into 2023, let’s have a look back to 2022. Despite, the soaring cost of living, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and a series of climate disasters that defined 2022, VSO supporters and volunteers continued to support our work in the face of adversity.
Dedicated to all our incredible volunteers past and present, Leteipa the King performed his song 'They Were There' at the 2022 VSO Volunteers Impact Awards. Watch the music video here!