Context: Despite the fact that the Right to Education Act mandates and funds universal primary education for Indian boys and girls up to grade 8, over 60% of girls in rural West Bengal have dropped out of school by grade 8 and less than 20% of girls complete grade 10. Factors contributing to the high dropout rates among girls include poverty, lack of familial support for education, and early marriage.

Organization: Founded in 1985, Nishtha is the only nongovernmental organization in its vicinity of rural West Bengal. Nishtha addresses some of the key issues of poverty in the area –lack of education; lack of credit; and poor health –by providing or making accessible education, credit and health services. It works closely with villagers to ensure that its approaches are compatible with their realities. Nishtha has also developed a highly effective approach to girls’ and women’s empowerment.

Current Grant: EMpower’s fifth grant to Nishtha provides 1000 girls with after school tutoring and admission support to allow them to continue their schooling and for some to get caught up on certain subjects. Nishtha will also convene and support groups of adolescent girls, training them on topics that affect their daily lives (e.g.-health and hygiene, nutrition) so they can share the information with their peers as well as others in the community. Nishtha will also provide vocational skill training for a cohort of adolescent girls and continuing its work to foster community support for girls.

India Contact: Mina Das Contact Email: Year Established: 1985