The Shanu Project – Illuminating Barriers

In May 2010, Harvard FXB launched the Shanu project in collaboration with the Indian Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a women’s union with 1.2 million members. Named after an adolescent girl who committed suicide shortly before data collection for the project started, the project was designed to investigate the obstacles to secondary school educational access and success for rural adolescents, particularly girls, in the northwestern state of Gujarat. The research included a community assessment using quantitative survey and qualitative components, targeting adolescents and female care givers, as well as local teachers, across five villages. The survey gathered data on household profiles, community assumptions and expectations, availability and perceived quality of the economic and educational opportunities in the area, attitudes towards education and livelihoods as well as adolescent self- report data on educational attainment, daily routine and responsibility, attitudes and aspirations. The team found that the situation of adolescent girls was one of grave concern.  At age 10, more than 90% of boys and girls attended school, yet by age 14, less than half of girls were in school. Advancement was found to be inhibited by a plethora of factors including discriminatory gender norms, economic insecurity and lack of infrastructure (e.g. accessible secondary schools, safe transport, and adequate instruction to achieve performance standards necessary for secondary school participation).

On the basis of the community assessment and subsequent village meetings, an adolescent educational intervention plan was devised in conjunction with teachers, villagers and education experts. The intervention included organization of group discussions addressing deleterious gender norms such as child marriage, of an after school tutoring program for adolescent students, and an educational bridge program for adolescent school drop outs.

For more information on the Shanu project please see: