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Reaching for the sky: empowering girls through education

08-08-2017, CUE | Since 2003, Prerna Girls School, a private school in the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India, has educated girls from impoverished families. Nonresident Fellow Urvashi Sahni, Prerna founder and teacher, has written “Reaching for the Sky: Empowering Girls through Education,” which recounts how the school changed the lives of more than 5,000 girls and their families. Told from the perspectives of several of the girls themselves, the book offers an inspiring narrative. The book will be launched 20 September 2017 at Brookings.

Since 2003 a privately funded high school has provided desperately needed education for girls from impoverished families in Lucknow, the capital and largest city in Uttar Pradesh, in northeast India. Urvashi Sahni, the founder of Prerna Girls School, tells the stories of how the school has changed the lives of more than 5,000 girls and their families. Most important, this book tells those stories from the perspectives of the girls themselves, rather than through a remote academic perspective.

The book focuses on how gender equality can be achieved in a patriarchal society through education. It shows how girls learn to be equal and autonomous persons in school as part of their official curriculum and how they use this learning to transform their lives and those of their families. The book’s central argument is that education can be truly transformative if it addresses the everyday reality of girls’ lives and responds to their special needs and challenges with respect and care.

Although Reaching for the Sky describes just one relatively small school in one corner of India, the book’s message and the stories it tells will interest anyone concerned about the necessity of girls’ education, especially in developing countries. The lives of the girls at Prerna Girls School are largely representative of those of millions of girls living in poor contexts in countries where patriarchal structures and norms prevail.

The launch of “Reaching for the Sky” will feature a panel discussion with Dr. Sahni, a Prerna alumna, and a Prerna teacher.