The Power of Educating Women: MANSI’s Sahiyas

It’s not news that by educating girls we can uplift an entire country and, one can argue, help eliminate poverty. We should educate our girls and women because “[a]n educated girl is likely to increase her personal earning potential, as well as reduce poverty in her community,”  and pass this on to the next generation to have “healthier and better educated children” (Bourne 2014). It also prevents early marriages and allow women to develop skills, knowledge and ultimately be empowered to make their own decisions and thus, claim their rights (USAID 2015).  Gayle Smith, CEO of ONE Campaign states that, “We know that if we educate girls the developing world will yield 308 million dollars per day” (GPE Secretariat 2018). Yet, educating our girls and women continues to be a difficult task.


So I would like to share with you my latest field visit with MANSI, AIF’s Maternal & Newborn Survival Initiative, designed to reduce maternal and child mortality in rural, impoverished areas of India. MANSI provides the resources and support required to “empower local communities to care for their mothers and children while improving the local health system” (AIF 2018). MANSI does this by providing “preventative and curative care for both mothers and newborns all the way from the individual household to government health facilities to ensure new mothers and infants have the care they need to prepare for, survive, and thrive during and after pregnancy” (AIF 2018).

MANSI works in many locations but my field visit was specific to Jharkhand, Seraikela-Kharsawan district, which is considered one of the poorest districts of Jharkhand, where “many villagers must travel arduous distances of up to ten miles for healthcare, leading to a widespread practice of home deliveries that deny basic and essential care needed to ensure a healthy start to life” (AIF 2018).

I witnessed firsthand what educating women can do – they can save lives. MANSI provides educational training to government appointed Sahiyas who then feel more confident and have more technical knowledge to assist in home-based deliveries. MANSI’s Sahiyas were taking the training they were provided and helping premature babies live. Meet a few of the Sahiyas saving lives in rural Jharkhand, India, which I had the pleasure of interacting with:


These women were ecstatic about serving their communities in their roles as Sahiyas. Many were selected by their communities to serve in such positions, and others volunteered. They spoke with pride about building stronger relationships with their community, the mothers, and the mother’s children. They do not shy away from being one of the few if not only resource the mothers can turn to during their delivery, given the lack of infrastructure and access to hospitals in many districts. The pictures below showcase their strong relationships with the women they helped and their premature babies.


Some of the most inspiring stories I recall included women taking the position and going to training alongside their daughters because they themselves were illiterate. Many of the Sahiyas talked about the barriers that do not hold them back. Some even shared anecdotes about delivering babies while wild elephants were afoot!

I met plenty of healthy and glowing babies, which were all born prematurely and with the support of Sahiyas, having grown to become healthy babies. The Sahiyas explained that the support doesn’t stop after birth, though. They monitor the mothers and the babies continuing into the babies’ second year, because of the many risks that babies and their mothers are exposed to. Providing post-delivery care ensures that the babies will survive and thrive post the most critical phases in their early development.


The Sahiyas expressed that their work is never really done. They spoke positively about their training with AIF and expressed that MANSI teaches them to be even more capable of serving and supporting mothers and their babies across rural India. Reflecting on my visit, it struck me how powerful this intervention to educate rural women of India really is – these women go on to save so many lives.




  1. Bourne, Jo. “Why Educating Girls Makes Economic Sense.” Global Partnership for Education, 6 Mar 2014.
  2. USAID. “Gender and Extreme Poverty: Getting to Zero – A USAID Discussion Series.” USAID, Sept 2015.
  3. GPE Secretariat. “15 Women Speak Up on the Power of Education.” Global Partnership for Education, 9 Mar 2018.
  4. “Public Health – AIF.” AIF,
  5. Gallucci, Robert. “The Power Of Educating Girls.” The Huffington Post, 4 Aug. 2012,
  6. “The Power of an Educated Woman.”,

A first-generation American, born and raised in the South Bronx, New York, Esmeralda is a graduate of Reed College with a Bachelor’s in Linguistics and a minor in International Relations. A recipient of the Princeton in Asia fellowship, the Benjamin Gilman scholarship and the highly competitive Humanity in Action fellowship, Esmeralda has traveled to China for an intense language immersion program and to Amsterdam to study international human rights. Esmeralda recently worked for a social enterprise where she created immersive programs utilizing experiential education theories and activities in order to empower youth leaders of tomorrow in Indonesia, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Vietnam. She utilized her previous work as a Student Support Specialist where she used social work practices and methods to help at-risk youth find different successful life options and improving educational outcomes for diverse communities. She has experience in identifying and implementing community and system improvements, interventions, managing non-profit, and institutional partnerships. Esmeralda spends her time volunteering with numerous organizations by conducting and counseling people through HIV testing, conducting homeless youth advocacy, and tackling the education gap. Esmeralda is a compassionate and thoughtful humanitarian, she is a determined and collaborative leader who believes in justice, equity, respect, community, and hope. She believes in the exchange of ideas in order to connect communities, for growth and most importantly for learning. In her spare time, you can find her dancing, in the gym or hanging out with loved ones.

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