Prince Charles charity strikes new pact for girls’ education in India

LONDON: A charity founded by Britain’s Prince Charles on Wednesday announced a new partnership with British Telecom (BT to launch a three-year programme to use digital technology to help improve education and life skills for adolescent girls in India.

British Asian Trust, founded by the royal in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia, said the pact with one of the UK’s leading telecom companies will explore the different ways technology can be used to break down social barriers and help enhance employability, health choices and autonomy for the target group of largely young girls in India.

The programme will work in and around BT’s India operations in Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, and Kolkata, with the aim to help improve the education opportunities, health and skills of around 500,000 young people. “The world of work has changed enormously during the 30 years BT has been in India. We recognise that digital technologies have the potential to transform opportunities for this and future generations of girls,” said BT Group Chief Executive Philip Jansen. “We’re delighted to be partnering with the British Asian Trust to deliver sustainable social impacts, and hope to galvanise our team of 10,500 BT people based in India to support this programme,”he said.

Working with innovators and sector leaders, the new partnership hopes to create a sustainable movement for change that will increase the opportunities available to girls between the ages of 10 and 19.

According to official estimates, India’s population includes 120 million adolescent girls, which is about 10 per cent of the population. The British Asian Trust notes from its work with local partners that many of these girls have little control over their own futures and face multiple barriers to fulfilling their potential.

The data indicates that India has the highest rate of teen pregnancy globally and 18 per cent of girls drop out before they finish secondary school; furthermore, 27 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18.

Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, said, “At the British Asian Trust, we pride ourselves on taking an innovative approach to tackle development challenges. Brokering partnerships and promoting economic development through scalable solutions is at the heart of what we do. We’re delighted to find a partner in BT who shares this vision and excited to be working together with them on a programme that will directly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls across India.” The BT-British Asian Trust partnership will work with partners on the ground to deliver the programme.

Some of the organisations chosen include Breakthrough, which will work through schools as well as the government health system and communities to ensure that young women and men adopt positive gender norms to tackle gender-based discrimination. It will use digital media and tech to sensitise communities and girls about gender roles and health and hygiene services, and train teachers and frontline health workers to improve services for girls.

IT for Change will work with girls in schools through workshops and classroom-based training in rights-based perspectives on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and digital literacy. This will include creating digital labs in schools to train girls as well as teachers, and video clubs that enable girls to create digital learning materials that will be used for peer learning among other girls in Bengaluru.

Going To School will design content for young people that connects employability and skills training with gender norms change, including games, movies, lessons and case studies, delivered both through direct delivery in schools and a mobile app that will reach hundreds of thousands of girls.

Splash will equip public girls’ schools in Kolkata with sanitation facilities and menstrual hygiene waste bins. It will utilise technology to manage both the large-scale change process and to monitor behaviour change at an individual level.

As part of their collaboration, BT and the British Asian Trust are also partnering on an innovative funding initiative called a Development Impact Bond (DIB. The DIB aims to improve literacy and numeracy skills for more than 300,000 children, drive a focus towardsthe outcomes in the development sector and transform the way education is funded in India. This DIB brings together a coalition of public and private sector partners, and the funding in year one will be invested into three education non-government organisations (NGOs.