Interview: Safeena Husain, founder of Educate Girls

Safeena Husain knows exactly what she’s talking about. Herself the product of a troubled childhood and a curtailed education, she founded Educate Girls to tackle the problem of out-of-school children in India, one of three countries where the incidence of the problem is greatest. At the AVPN conference in Singapore last month, she talked to Andrew Milner about the ripple effect of girls’ education, about the virtues and criticisms of Impact Bonds and about the value of having an Asian platform for donors and NGOs to come together.

When did you set up Educate Girls and why?

My own journey is what led me to start Educate Girls. I had a very difficult childhood growing up in New Delhi and experienced first-hand poverty, violence and abuse. But eventually, with support from a friend of my father, I went from a traumatised child to being the first person in my family to go to university when I got in to LSE in London.

From there, my life changed dramatically. I moved to America, started my career in the non-profit sector and then returned to India in 2005. At that point, things began to crystallize for me. I realised that I had been able to achieve so much because of my education. I went to the Government and said if I wanted to work on girls’ education, where should I go? They shared data on 26 critical gender-gap districts, nine of which were in the state of Rajasthan, so that’s where we got started.

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