Coming alongside the family, they learned that her demotivation had grown through the pandemic when she found herself isolated and out of touch due to lockdowns and school closures. School was already a place where she found it difficult to communicate due to language barriers. “My classmates did not call me during that time,” says Blanca, speaking in Guaraní, a native language of Paraguay. “I used to go to visit some of them and ask them for their notebooks so that I could also complete lessons. During that time, I missed much of the homework.” Blanca goes back to school Engaging with Blanca and her mother and grandmother, who she lives with, program staff discovered her difficulties communicating. Spanish is the exclusive language of the school system, used for lessons and in textbooks, so she experienced great difficulty adapting from her first language of Guaraní. With encouragement and help through the program, Blanca agreed to return to her education, even finding a goal to help drive her to reach success. “My teacher (program staff) and my family urged me a lot to choose to return,” she says, explaining why she decided to pursue education again. “I thought ‘what will happen to me if I don't go to school anymore; I'd better go back to class.’ “I know I want to be someone in life, I want to achieve something, and that is why I went back,” she concludes. “Now I want to be a policewoman.” There are more young women like Blanca choosing to pursue education through the program, and with donor support, Children Believe can continue to reach even more. —With notes from Karen Nuñez and Rosanna Menchaca. Blanca became alienated with school, for a number of reasons. But given counselling, she found a new passion for education and is back in class now, pursuing a path in law enforcement.

Going back to school Gowri learned how to speak out for her own good

Determined to pursue education Blanca is back in school with a new purpose lanca, 17, left school last year, one of many vulnerable youth whose drive and ambition were affected by COVID-19's devastating disruption to children's education. In fact, in Paraguay, regular school attendance for youth aged 15 to 19 dropped from 97.7 to 70.2 percent in just a few years. Compounding the difficulty for young people to B stay in school is a lack of infrastructure with schools in need of learning materials and improvements, bullying and the absence of vital learning support for children with disabilities or learning needs. “It didn't interest me anymore,” she says, describing her simple reason for leaving school. This trend has become a priority focus for Children Believe and its partners in Paraguay. In countries where gaining an education is already difficult, dropping out of school severely reduces career options and likely means a life of disadvantages. Blanca’s decision didn’t escape the notice of staff from Children Believe's Remansito program, implemented in her community in alliance with local partner, Global Infancia.

ROPES team provided the support and encouragement I needed to overcome my hesitations,” she says. “They empowered me to speak up and express my ideas without fear.” Meetings focused on building confidence and social skills, imparting crucial knowledge about child rights, protection laws, and child participation. Our work seeks to enable women and girls to exercise their agency, release their imagination, and take ownership of their lives and decisions. Gowri and other children were encouraged to take active roles in discussions and decision-making processes. Coupled with the conducive environment provided by local government schools, the door was open for Gowri to find a path back to school. “The counseling sessions offered by the ROPES team had a profound impact on both me and my parents,” the young woman explains. “They helped my parents understand the importance of education for every individual. With this newfound understanding, they became supportive of my educational pursuits.” And now she feels like the sky is the limit for her dreams to come true. “Continuing my education has given me a dream — to become a doctor — and the confidence to chase that dream,” she says. “It’s instilled in me the belief that I can make a difference in the lives of others. I even taught my mom to write her signature, which enabled her to acquire benefits for herself and her self-help group. This opportunity would have been impossible otherwise.”

Taking part in youth clubs gave Gowri confidence to advocate for herself, so she could return to classes and pursue her goal to be a doctor.

By Jins Joseph (With contributions from Ms. Shakina Abraham.)


hile my friends were learning and growing in school, I had to stay at home and take care of my younger sisters. I felt left out and missed the chance to play, learn, and experience new things with them. Not being able to go to school had a big impact on me.” This was a very difficult time for Gowri, a 16-year-old girl in rural India. Due to her family's financial situation, her parents needed her to stop attending school. She stayed home and took care of her two younger siblings. Unhappy, but obedient to her parents, she did as she was asked. But the feeling in the pit of her stomach wouldn’t go away. “In our community, it was common for girls to stop going to school, especially when they reached a certain age,” she says. “It was disheartening for me when my siblings asked for help with their homework, and I couldn't provide the assistance they needed. All these experiences brought me disappointment and sadness. I felt like I was useless and inferior.” However, there was one place where Gowri found relief and eventually the inner courage and conviction to challenge the status quo. At a Children Believe youth club provided through a partner, Rural Organization for Poverty Eradication Services (ROPES), she continued her education in a different way. One that would change her life. “The first meeting initially made me feel shy, but the

Blanca has the support of her grandmother, Lidia, in overcoming challenges to education.



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