Education is a determining factor in a country’s economic and political success. The more educated the population becomes, the more a country will flourish. Traditionally, women’s education in developing countries has been pushed to the wayside due to gender stereotypes and traditional household roles. Lotus Outreach International supports girls’ education in developing countries to help them break through these boundaries and gives them a voice to change the environment around them.
What is the Lotus Outreach Program?
The Lotus Outreach Program, founded in India in 1993, began as a way to aid Tibetan refugees in India. It then expanded its focus to neglected groups in developing countries worldwide, and now has an affiliate in California which supports efforts to improve women’s education around the world. Lotus Outreach International is currently working in India and Cambodia to empower women and has broadened access to education in the two countries.
Lotus Outreach International has provided 1,449 high school scholarships for female students in India, along with 327 university training scholarships. The organization has also provided 2,500 bikes to female students as transportation to and from school. Lotus Outreach International has also donated 409,020 kilograms of rice for educational programs.
Educational Statistics from India
Since Lotus Outreach International primarily operates in India, it is important to understand the scope of the educational system in the country. India has one of the largest school-age populations in the world, with around 270 million children between the ages of 5 and 17. Education is required from 6 to 13 and the educational system has four tiers: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. Pre-primary is for children from 3 to 6 years old, primary is between ages six and 10, secondary is between ages 11 to 17, and tertiary is between ages 18 to 22. The current primary to secondary transition rate is high for female students, with 90.37 percent of females continuing to secondary education in 2016.
The country still has low secondary and tertiary female enrollment, however, which Lotus Outreach International is addressing through programs and aid outreaches in rural areas around India. Many students are struggling in both math and reading, as seen through mean achievement scores from 2015. During that year, the mean achievement score for math in rural areas was 247, while the urban score was 256. In English, the mean score was 19 points higher in urban areas than in rural ones. For these reasons, Lotus Outreach supports rural women’s education to close the urban/rural gap.
Lotus Outreach International Programs
The organization has created multiple programs to support girls’ education in developing countries. Some notable programs include Blossom Bus, Lotus Petals and Education Quality Addition.
- Blossom Bus provides female students with safe transportation to and from schools, as it is widely believed to be unsafe for females to travel alone in many parts of India. Fears about safety often end female education at the primary level, and girls are kept at home without the chance to continue learning. This program, specific to Mewat, Haryana, India, provides bus transportation to secondary and tertiary educational facilities with trustworthy drivers. Blossom Bus aims to counteract the extremely low female literacy rate in Haryana, which currently stands at 36 percent. The program currently provides transportation for over 300 female secondary students and 48 tertiary students, helping to break the cycle of early marriages and supporting young women as they try to get an education.
- Lotus Pedals targets women who would be easily susceptible to sex trafficking and abuse. The program helps to provide affordable, safe and reliable transportation to young girls who would otherwise have to choose between a meal and a taxi ride to school. Lotus Petals supplies all-terrain bicycles to girls living more than a mile away from the nearest schools and has provided more than 2,316 bicycle scholarships so far. The Lotus Petals outreach helps female students in Cambodia as well. These bicycles help further girls’ education in developing countries by giving students a safer way to get to school.
- The Education Quality Addition program is an after-school enhancement program for migrant worker students to ensure that these girls are able to keep up with educational standards. The program enrolls students into all core classes needed to ensure that their education level is where it should be based on their age. EQU+ works with students in Delhi, India who would otherwise be unable to attend classes due to high tuition prices. Currently, the program is serving 25 to 30 students under 14 in the Delhi area to ensure that these girls are able to keep up with their education and prevent them from dropping out of school entirely.
Lotus Outreach International has worked tirelessly through multiple programs to support girls’ education in developing countries. These three programs and many more are increasing female enrollment and helping more women finish their education.
– Kristen Bastin