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(CNN) — Purnima lives in Nepal. She wants to be a nurse. But because she is a girl instead of a boy, she is more likely to go to work than go to school.
In Nepal, government schools start charging tuition in the sixth grade. But Purnima was selected to be part of the Girls Education program with the nonprofit Room to Read and was able to continue her education.
“I am the first person getting an education in my family and my brother and sisters did not get the chance due to our family background … we are from a poor family so we cannot afford to go to school,” says Purnima.
Purnima lives with her family in a room above the carpet factory where her older sister works. Her father is paralyzed. Her mother became blind when Purnima was 2 years old. All her siblings stopped going to school after the fifth grade
Purnima is 17 and has just finished secondary school at the top of her class. In fact, she was at the top of her class every year.
Purnima is about to start two years of Nepal’s post-secondary school and she plans to go on to college. For a long time, she wanted to be an eye doctor. Now she says she is going to be a nurse and she may have a good chance to do just that. According to Room to Read, about 76% of its graduates go on to some kind of university, college or vocational training after secondary school.
The nonprofit Room to Read start working in Nepal more than 13 years ago. The organization now works for gender equality in education and overall literacy in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia.
“Help them see their dreams and put them on the path to success … with the life skills, drive and understanding, we get girls to the next step,” says Rebecca Hankin of Room to Read.
Room to Read works to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among all schoolchildren. But it also tries to ensure girls have the skills and support needed to complete their secondary education. More than 7 million children have been given access to education through the nonprofit’s network of libraries and schools.