In a short four years, Reach Global has provided life-changing education to 700,000 illiterate, isolated teen girls, mothers and grandmothers in 14 of the poorest states in India. This promising, potent beginning will be featured on World Poverty Eradication Day at the Opportunity Collaboration.
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In India, most of the country's 450 million poor live in rural areas. Most are women. Most are young girls who are particularly vulnerable to health, violence, exploitation and lives of desperation. It is India that is the proving ground for Reach Global.
As Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn write in Half The Sky:
In the wealthy countries of the West, discrimination is usually a matter of unequal pay or underfunded sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In...much of the world discrimination is lethal. In India, for example, mothers are less likely to take their daughters to be vaccinated than their sons -- that alone accounts for one fifth of India's missing females. All told, girls in India from one to five years of age are 50 percent more likely to die than boys the same age. The best estimate is that a little Indian girl dies from discrimination every four minutes.
Reach Global education programs teach classes on topics that are put into practice right away, like personal hygiene and the threat of malaria or AIDS. This is a university degree in life survival filled with a curriculum of hope for female students who have a desire to learn and a need to know.
Reach Global Executive Director Sean Kline openly quotes San Francisco-based Mulago Foundation president Kevin Starr, "Go Big or Go Home." Starr is a performance hawk for social change programs, challenging them to be measurable without becoming measured in their passion to invent and attain "scalable solutions."
In practice, this means Reach Global has avoided the hubris of building its own distribution network from scratch. Instead, it piggybacks on local organizations like microfinance banks, nonprofits, faith- and community-based organizations, farmers' clubs, local governments, and rural and cooperative banks. That means Reach Global can grow quickly.
Reach Global's flagship program is a network of low-cost franchisees: two-person training teams certified to deliver life skills education. Charging a modest fee to train local organizations about how to educate the female self-help groups that they already serve, these franchisees are profitable in 10-14 months. That means Reach Global can grow even faster.
The Reach Global business model is so simple, so elegant, that it screams at you. Combine women's self-help groups, savings clubs and cooperative mini-banks. Members save as little as 35 cents each month and, if needed, borrow money from each other for life-saving emergencies.
Then, add in the "secret sauce," the truly commanding clarity, the powerful truth: "The one resource poor women have in abundance is the ability to learn and change." That's it!
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