Isaac Newton said “if I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
Newton recognized that all of his tremendous achievements would have been impossible without the hard work of the great scientists and thinkers who had come before him. Progress in science, as in society, is essentially incremental – an upward trend with great leaps from time to time, building upon the work of the past.
Think for a moment about all of the giants whose shoulders you stand upon, the women in your life who paved the way for you, who encouraged you and made it possible for you to reach for your highest potential. Maybe it was your grandmother, mother, or another family member? Or perhaps it was a total stranger – a coach, teacher, or mentor, who encouraged you to go further than you ever dreamed possible.
Now imagine for a moment that you are a girl in a poor family in India, growing up in a slum, or perhaps in a village. Your parents do the best they can for you and send you to school. They love you and want the best for you, but they cannot see any further than their life of unending menial labor.
You attend school and maybe dream, for a time, of a better life. But along the way, something happens. You are asked to leave school and help support the family while your brother continues on, because his education is valued more than yours – simply because you are a girl. Your father abandons you and your mother cannot cope. A parent falls prey to sickness or death. Any dreams you had are shoved to the side and there is no safety net and no way to get out of the situation you are in. You end up accepting less in your life, even though you may dream of more. And you start thinking that this the best it will ever be.
Sixty percent of girls in India will get to the 8th grade; of these, only 25 percent will finish high school. Fewer still will go on to college. This is due to tradition, poverty and a preference for educating boys. At Sahasra Deepika, we believe that every girl’s dreams should have an opportunity to shine. We provide girls who are orphans, or from poor, single parent homes, with residential education, counseling, health care – everything they need to start building a vision for their future. We support them through elementary, middle and high school and through college or vocational school.
Who are the giants whose shoulders they now stand upon? Yours, and all those who support our efforts to encourage them and provide for them.
Sahasra Deepika means “a thousand lights.” For more than 16 years, we have been lighting the way forward for children. We hope that on International Women’s Day, that you will be the light for a girl in need.