Safeena Husain, a graduate of London School of Economics, had worked in various development projects in South America, Africa and Asia for 10 years. But when she thought of returning to India, Husain was determined to focus on the agenda closest to her heart - girls' education - and founded the not-for-profit organisation Educate Girls in 2007.
"In India, the biggest problem is many parents do not want to educate their daughters," she says. The statistics are appalling. About three million girls are out of school, and only one out of 100 girls in rural India could reach 12th standard.
"I had the privilege of getting a good education and could build a career, but millions of girls in India are denied it," the 46-year-old edupreneur says.
Her NGO started the campaign with a 500 school-pilot in Pali district, Rajasthan, a state where more than 350,000 girls are out of school. After a decade, Educate Girls is working with 21,000-plus schools, enabling over two lakh girls to get enrolled and reaching over 3.8 million beneficiaries. The NGO has a team of 1,500 permanent staff and 10,000 Team Balika (community volunteers). The volunteers are educated youths from local communities who counsel parents, help them enrol their children in government schools and teach. They also work to improve student retention. "So far, we have kept 85 per cent of our students in school," Husain says.
Her goal is to improve access and quality of education by 2018 for around 2.5 million children. In 2016, the organisation spent over Rs 37 crore, and it is now planning to expand to the backward areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.