In India, gender discrimination has always been an ongoing concern and a barrier to girls’ education. Education for girls are typically viewed as being less lucrative. In addition, girls are often swarmed with an unreasonable amount of domestic work, early forced marriages and sibling care.

Urvashi Sahini, founder of the Study Hall Education Foundation (SHEF) in Lucknow, is one of the victims of gender discrimination. Hence, Shaini now attempts to change the situation by providing quality education to underprivileged girls and youth in urban and rural India. The foundation focuses on feminist-based and gender sensitisation techniques. SHEF was formerly established in 1994 and currently run numerous educational initiatives in urban and rural India. Sahini had also authored a book “Reaching for the Sky: Empowering Girls Through Education”, where she narrated her story as a victim of gender discrimination.

Sahini first started out by generating a helpline for women in distress and founded Suraksha – the first family counselling centre in Uttar Pradesh in 1983 despite having no relevant knowledge or experience. Through her work, Sahini came to a realisation that the poor rural women faced the same issues and violence as those of the rich urban women.

In addition, Sahini had the opportunity to visit schools by conducting gender workshops under Suraksha, and that made her realise a common flaw among schools. Although schools have equipped students with reading and writing skills and academic information, it failed to teach girls that they are equal individuals. Students are not competent enough to critically examine their lives as girls in a strong patriarchal society. Many of the existential questions that students have were not addressed nor were they taught how to live.

Therefore, to address the issue, Sahini together with Ahalya Chari, Director of Kirshnamurti Foundation school at Rajghat, founded Prerna in 2003. A school for girls from low income families. The institution is established with the goal to help girls rectify the multiple challenges of patriarchal society and counter gender discrimination deeply rooted within the structure. In 2005, SHEF expanded to the rural areas of Vidyasthali, providing high quality education to over 400 students from 55 villages. They also initiated DOSTI, an integrated programme for special needs children. In 2013, SHEF started a boys school with the intent of inculcating feminist/egalitarian consciousness in boys. Since its inception SHEF has reached over 250,000 students and is currently educating over 6,000 students and trains over 8,000 teachers.

Source: Your Story