Nina attends high school in the Sector-37 slums of Noida, a suburb of New Delhi infamously known as the neighborhood of the harijans (“untouchables”) - the lowest rung in India’s historical social caste system. Here, girls stop dreaming at a very young age - when she should be in 4th grade, a typical Sector-37 girl will start working as domestic help; as she approaches teenage, her increasingly worried family will start looking for a husband for her, as an unmarried girl is an extra mouth to feed and considered a serious liability.
Nina's older sister got married at the age of 14 under the arrangement of her father, who believed that if a girl is “too educated”, it becomes impossible to find her a husband, and an unmarried girl is a lifelong burden. When Nina turned 14, she and her mother begged for her to stay one more year at school. Although her father agreed loathly, he'd frequently send Nina away to work at villages for months, making it impossible for her to catch up with school.
However, Nina managed to keep learning. In fact, with the help from a teacher, Ms. Rashmi, she even learned to read and write in English. When she was sent away again and stayed in a village for 2 months, Nina wrote a letter to her father, "explaining to him that I wanted to grow up, do something to make him proud of me, and that having a job would help me stand on my two feet and not depend on my husband or his family".
When Nina's father heard the letter read aloud, he was in tears. Moved by his daughter's conviction and surprised by her excellent writing skill, he became a proud supporter of her school.
Nina’s transformation has been possible because she is in a special program for school dropouts, operated by Vidya & Child (V&C), a non-profit organization. Bloom & Give has partnered with V&C to fund 35 high school girls through this program. Mainstream schools are no longer an option for these underprivileged girls, who were once pulled out of school either to get married or to help with domestic labor. The carefully created curriculum provides them with academic support along with financial, career counseling and mentoring support.
“My dream is to become a TV news anchor,” says Nina. "My dad watches a lot of news. Actually, when he’s home, that’s all he does. One day, I want to be the one reading the news to him so he can be proud of me!"
Every quarter, Bloom & Give seeks out worthy project and partners throughout India, and support them with 10% of the sales of their handcrafted textiles. Each of these programs targets a specific obstacle that prevents girls from going to school. They also continually monitor the programs for effectiveness - several times a year, they visit the schools and villages to see the impact first-hand. In these visits, every single girl they talked to has told them that school is the favorite part of her life, and that she wants to keep on studying.