Sam Singh grew up in Anupshahar, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where poverty and a modern form a feudalism make life quite challenging for the majority of the population. Sam’s family’s financial means and his natural athletic ability gave him the opportunity to get a quality education and go on to work in business. He moved to the U.S. to work for DuPont, and eventually became the leader of their South Asia division. While he enjoyed his career, he was often reminded of the unjust society he’d managed to leave behind. In 1999, Sam decided to retire and return to his community in the hopes of making positive change.
Sam knew that to break the cycle of poverty, he had to first focus on improving the quality of life for the most vulnerable citizens of Anupshahar: the girls. In such a staunchly patriarchal society, female children are considered an economic and social burden. Forgotten and uneducated, they are forever dependent upon their husbands or male family members for their livelihood. This leads to a cycle of repression, abuse, and neglect that can only be broken with the self-reliance and enlightenment that education brings. And so, Sam decided to found a school for girls called Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES).
At its core, PPES is a school that provides free education for girls and helps them to find higher education opportunities or jobs upon graduation. In order to encourage families to enroll their daughters and ensure they remain in school through 12th grade, PPES provides generous financial incentives for attendance. Each girl receives ten rupees per day of attendance, and this money is put into a scholarship fund that will be available to her after graduation. The financial incentives and parent outreach that the PPES staff does in the community has led to a shift in attitude toward girls’ education from one of resentment to one of appreciation and interest.
PPES has also expanded its model to include social and economic empowerment initiatives for local adult women. They operate several social enterprises for women, such as textile production and soap-making, from the school site, and support the work of hundreds of women’s collectives in the surrounding villages.
Ultimately, Sam hopes that the initiatives of PPES will provide the support necessary to help women to become educated and economically independent which, in turn, will create a society in which all citizens have an opportunity to reach their fullest potential.