Better late than never, right? A year ago at this time I was frantically reading everything I could about girl’s education in India in preparation for a two-week trip to northern India as part of my capstone project in grad school. My team was working with an NGO, the Study Hall Educational Foundation, based in Lucknow, India, doing an evaluation of their girl’s empowerment curriculum that is being used in nearly 100 government run all-girls boarding schools known as KGBVs. The KGBVs are grades 6-8 and target students from lower socioeconomic classes. The curriculum teaches girls about their rights and bodies — the legal age of marriage, what abuse is, the changes they experience during puberty, hygiene — something that is desperately needed in many parts of the world.
Before we headed into the field, we spent two days exploring New Delhi and Agra. I’d heard a lot about India from fellow travelers especially while I lived in Asia and to be honest reviews ranged from “it was the most amazing trip of my life” to “eh, it was hot, dirty, people are very poor.” The whole time I was in India I was comparing it to my time in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia and well, maybe I have a major bias, but I enjoyed traveling Indonesia a lot more than India. India was interesting and I would love to visit the southern parts some day but it’s not that high on my list.
Our fieldwork took us all over the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest regions in India. Many of the schools we visited were over a two-hour drive from any bigger town. Below is a photo of a ghat in Mirzapur, one of the larger cities on our journey. It was magical watching the fog roll in over the Ganges River and spotting freshwater dolphins swimming along.
Delhi was a bustling, busy and messy place. I also didn’t expect it to be so cold and foggy in January. When we opened the curtains in our hotel room we couldn’t see anything down below — that’s how thick the fog was.
The Jama Masjib in Delhi where you must don long robes to walk around. It’s one of India’s largest mosques.