This girl is going to change the world. But probably not without her mom.

Elaine Watkins —  May 21, 2014

I love kids. Who doesn’t? Some of the wittiest and most fabulous people I know… are children.

And I’ve always loved supporting different causes that benefit kids around the world—mostly education. Because education is one of those few things in my life that I know is real, and good, and life changing.

But it has recently come to my attention that when we talk about children’s education, the conversation feels a bit one-sided.

Because what happens when that kid comes home from school to a family that doesn’t value education? To a mother who can’t read or write? To a father who could care less?

Take it from Jaya. As you can see, she’s obviously awesome.


I met Jaya in India.

She tells me she goes to a small school run by a local who knows how important education is. Jaya starts going to school with about 40 other kids from the village. She loves it. She’s good at it. She looks forward to it.

She can’t take the books home because there aren’t enough for everyone, so she’s excessively excited to go back the next day and get her little fingers on one.

After school, Jaya goes home to a mom and dad. Dad travels to the nearby city to work all week, so she doesn’t see him much. Mom has never been to school so she’s totally illiterate. She can’t read street signs or bus schedules, so she rarely leaves the house. She cleans and cooks and keeps having babies.

She can’t help Jaya with her schoolwork and she has a half a dozen kids, her elderly mother-in-law, and her husband to cook and clean and care for. Because this is tradition and it’s sacred. Jaya would be lucky to be married young and have as many babies as her mom. And she doesn’t need school to do that.

So school is just a fun thing her daughter likes to do.

Jaya goes to school for a few weeks, but when one of her brothers or sisters falls sick and Mom has to pay for medicine, there’s not enough money for food. So Mom makes Jaya leave school—sometimes for months—to sell things on the streets and earn money. Jaya never knows when, or if, she’ll go back.

She wishes they wouldn’t have to go to the doctor. But Mom doesn’t know why the kids get sick.
She wishes Mom could earn money, but Mom doesn’t even know how to count.
She wishes life was easier.

So I ask her, what if Mom knew how to read and write and count like you?

Jaya says, Mom would be able to leave our home and get a job and buy food for us.
And be happy like me.