A: Did you look at the demographics for each school? Or was the selection based mostly on socioeconomic status?
G: It was mostly low socioeconomic status. We did look at some of the demographics-- we have some all-girl schools-- to see the difference between co-ed and all-girl schools and all-boy schools. We did not look at private schools in India since our focus was on government/ public schools.
It’s not an easy project, especially with our research team coming in the middle of class and conducting about 50 surveys at a time with the students on tablets. Each data collection session required 30 minutes of instructions and then about an hour to complete the survey.
Implementing this program is a big commitment for the TFI fellows; they have to be committed to teaching this curriculum for six months, come to workshop trainings, and follow-up with me and my in-country team member by filling out our fidelity form each month that lets us know how they’re progressing through the curriculum. We had to make such that the government schools were ok with the GR curriculum; we had to get approval from the principals, so there were a lot of loops we had to go through in order to select these schools.
A: What made you apply for the Knapp Fellowship? What inspired you to create this project?
G: When I came across the Knapp Fellowship, it seemed to be a good fit, as it is a service-learning opportunity that is research-oriented and allows for a sustainable project. That’s really what I wanted to do. I am passionate about this topic - inspiring children to realize their potential and achieve their dreams no matter the barriers in India. I also understand the difficulties of being a girl in a patriarchal society that oppresses women in many ways. I was personally a middle school student in India and understand the pressure, the stress, and the weight of needing to do well in school. It was all about school. Some of the gender discrimination that I went through as a middle school student allowed me to relate to the middle school students I was working with.
I saw the Knapp Fellowship as an opportunity to do something extremely important in an international setting. The Knapp Fellowship also supported innovative ideas, which encouraged my decision to conduct all our research with the students on tablets. This is a new method of research that engages students in a fun way so that they’re excited to complete the survey.
A: Although your project isn’t finished yet, how has your project personally impacted you thus far?
G: It’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve been learning so much about myself and the communities I’ve worked with in Delhi. Just talking to the students has been so impactful. When conducting fieldwork with the students, I got the chance to look into their lives and understand their everyday struggles. It really made me question, “Why is my life like this and theirs is like that?” which is really a tough question to answer. What did they do, as innocent kids, to deserve that kind of lifestyle?
Many of these kids wake up at around 4-5 a.m. to cook breakfast for their families and prepare meals for their parents, make sure their brothers or sisters are ready for school, and then walk an hour or two to go to school. In the evening, they come back and again cook, clean, work, run errands, and do all these things to help their parents. The struggle is so real for these kids and it’s just not fair. It’s supposed to be the few years in their life to learn, play outside, laugh, have fun, play sports, and just be a kid. The amount of responsibilities they have at such a young age is upsetting, but truly inspiring.
A: Do you think you can describe the international ramifications of your project?
G: The data we collect from this evaluation will be informative for future programs and interventions on gender-sensitization curriculums. I am hoping to publish my findings so that other individuals in the field can learn from it.
One of the smartest investment opportunities for a country that can increase their national economic growth is by simply investing in a girls’ education. By educating a girl in the family, the cycle of poverty can be broken in just one generation.
Through this program, I hope to change attitudes and perceptions among adolescents which will drive change for a new generation of adults. Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation,
A: How has the Knapp fellowship aided your project? What have you used the Knapp Fellowship for?
G: Everything! I use the Fellowship to fund my travel and for funding even basic things that you usually don’t think about, like printing costs, Wi-Fi (to sync the tablets), and workshop supplies. Now that data collection is over, I’m on the data-analysis side of the project, which has other costs such as translation. The Knapp Fellowship paid for nearly every aspect of my project.