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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How cycling set deprived Indian girls on a life-long journey [via The Guardian]

One simple initiative in Bihar state not only solved an everyday problem for schoolgirls, but also expanded their horizons
Bike blog :  Schoolgirls riding bicycles in India
More than 870,000 schoolgirls have benefited from the bike subsidies. Photograph: Michael Melford/NGS/Corbis

In Bihar, one of India's poorest and most populous states, half of the women and a quarter of the men are illiterate, and about 90% of its 104 million inhabitants live in rural areas. Life here is particularly difficult for girls, and one of the greatest hindrances to their development is the simple journey to school. For many, the trip is long, expensive and dangerous.
But here, in rural Bihar, we recently saw that a two-wheeled solution to the problem has been found.
Three years ago the state's new chief minister Nitish Kumar adopted a "gender agenda" and set about redressing his state's endemic gender imbalances in an attempt to boost development in one of India's most backward states. His vision was to bring a sense of independence and purpose to his state's young women, and the flagship initiative of this agenda is the Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna, a project that gives schoolgirls 2,000 rupees (about £25) to purchase a bicycle.


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