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Women Empowered: Learning to Lead
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Women Empowered: Learning to Lead
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Smile Pinki
Filmmaker Phil Borges travels to India to learn about an innovative education program called Udaan. It targets girls who missed out on education earlier in their lives. They not only master skills, but also find their voices and prepare to become leaders in their communities and nation.
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Explore CARE's website for information about how women and girls are leading change in their communities.
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Segment 1

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Learning to Lead
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Orissa, India.
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Of every 100 girls in rural India, only 18 will reach the 8th grade, and only one will complete high school.
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An uneducated girl risks a higher rate of maternal and child mortality, will likely marry before her 15th birthday, may never know her basic human rights.
PHIL BORGES [Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer]
Of the millions of children around the world who never get an education, the majority are girls. Chanmani is one of these girls. She's never seen the inside of a classroom. Her chores begin at four in the morning. Then, with her sisters, she spends a few hours making rope for the family business. Around eight, she heads to the rice fields, where she'll work until sundown. Chanmani's parents say they don't see the benefit of educating their daughters. Losing the girls' labor would be a hardship for their struggling family. Furthermore, it's customary for a girl to move away after marriage and become a part of her husband's family. Many parents conclude that educating a girl is just a poor investment.
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There are nearly 900 million illiterate adults in the world. Two-thirds are women.
PHIL BORGES
Beginning in 1999, India made a bold commitment to educate all children through grade six. I came to India to see how this developing country, with its huge, diverse population, was accomplishing this monumental task. Today, the number of schools has increased dramatically, but the capacity to deliver a quality education, still has a long way to go. I listened in on a group of mothers as they expressed their concerns. They weren't quite sure what their children were learning. They too wondered if the time diverted away from the daily chores, was really worth it. The classrooms I saw were overcrowded with children of all ages. As the students recited memorized lines, I began to understand some of the parents' concerns.
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Uttar Pradesh, India
PHIL BORGES
CARE is supporting India's historic commitment to education with a unique program called Udaan.
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Udaan: Accelerated Learning Camp
PHIL BORGES
Udaan was especially developed to reach older girls, who had missed out on an education. My first day visiting this exceptional program was a revelation. From the moment I entered the classroom, I was amazed by the students' engagement. Here I was, a Westerner, who they rarely see, poking around with a video camera, and I didn't disrupt their focus. I was told these girls come from some of the poorest families in India. Before Udaan, most had never seen a school. In just 11 months, they're brought up to a 5th grade level. I asked Vandana, one of the teachers, how this was possible.
VANDANA SRIVASTAVA [Udaan Instructor]
We employ a multi-track teaching method, and use games to make the learning fun. We not only teach reading, writing, and math, we [also] strive to teach them social skills, and make a space for them to express themselves. We want them to be critical thinkers, to be able to speak with confidence and voice an opinion. It's a very intense curriculum, but it works. Ninety-six percent of students finish Udaan, and 89 percent go on to secondary school or college. When the girls first get here, they are shy and unable to express their own thoughts. It's wonderful to see them, as they start to care for themselves, and assert their own ideas. Watching them begin to blossom is so exciting.
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Pinki Sharman, Udaan Graduate 1999
PHIL BORGES
Pinki was a graduate of the very first Udaan class and is now in college, and has her own apartment. This level of independence for a young single woman is extremely rare in her town.
PINKI SHARMAN
When I go home, all my friends ask me about college. They can't believe I can live alone. My life is so foreign to them. My best friend Shenasi's marriage was arranged when she was 14. She did not want to get married, and pleaded with her parents to let her study further. I told them I would give her my old books, but they didn't agree. Someday I want to be able to help the girls in my village go to school.
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Shailendri Sharma, Udaan Graduate 2004
PHIL BORGES
Like Pinki, Shailendri is an Udaan graduate. At first her parents were hesitant to send her away to school. Now they're amazed and proud of her new confidence and how well she speaks. Shailendri is about to graduate from grade 12, and taking a computer class after school.
RAM VATI [Shailendri's Grandmother]
In my day, girls did not get educated. I got married when I was 11, to someone chosen by my parents. Shailendri has changed so much. She has become a role model for other girls in our village. Now they want to go to Udaan.
PHIL BORGES
Today, the educational landscape across rural India is changing. Thanks to the government's commitment to education, and schools like Udaan. Udaan teaching methods, developed by CARE, are a model of success for classrooms all across India. But most importantly the Udaan graduates serve as shining examples to those in their villages who weren't quite sure why a girl needed an education.
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Shuman 17, Sonashri 18, Udaan Graduates 2004
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By 2015, CARE aims to help 10 million girls in 20 countries complete primary education and develop leadership skills. They, in turn, will be able to guide their families and communities out of poverty.