India contains one third of the worlds female poor. 88% of female children attend primary school, 45% drop out between grades 1 and 5, and 51% leave before 11th grade. 47% of women marry before they are 18. For those who enter employment it is low paying, irregular, and often unsafe. For the majority, they find themselves trapped within their homes. For those whose families are poor, the percentage is far higher.
Without education, women are left out of the discussion of the very problems that affect them most deeply and for which, they might someday provide solutions.
The great problem is that WEP parents, for the most part daily-wage workers are uneducated themselves. And, despite their support and disposition to challenge cultural norms (by educating their female child), they cannot fund tuition, books, or transportation higher education requires.
Add to this, domestic violence, congested homes, horrible sanitation, illness, malnutrition, (55.3% of Indian women are anemic (16% severely so)) debt, and domestic responsibilities, there is much for the WEP program to address.
The WEP student is one who, against the odds, has completed the 10th grade, and dreams of college and a career. She knows that higher education leads to formal sector employment and a higher standard of living for herself and her family (each additional school year increases a woman’s earnings by 10 – 20%). Many WEP alumnae have doubled their family income.