India contains one third of the 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 will marry before they are 18 and many will enter low paying, often unsafe employment. 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.
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 secondary school, and dreams of college and career. She knows that higher education leads to formal sector employment and a higher standard of living for themselves and their families (each additional school year increases a woman’s earnings by 10 – 20%). Many WEP alumnae have doubled their family income.
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.