Study Hall Educational Foundation


Dr Urvashi Sahni is an educationist, feminist and a social entrepreneur working for girls rights for over 30 years. Her crusade as a feminist started after her cousin sister allegedly set herself on fire due to an abusive marriage.

Dr Sahni, who is the founding president of the Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), has championed a revolutionary critical pedagogical approach which is based on the belief that to ensure that educating girls results in gender equality, education must focus on both gender and equality directly in the official curriculum, thereby enabling girls to reflect critically on their lives and develop voice, agency and strategies to navigate, negotiate and transform a discriminatory social system. The eventual goal is to educate them to recognise themselves as equal persons with a right to a life of their own choosing and give them the skills to realize their dreams.

In 2003, under the SHEF umbrella, Dr.Sahni started Prerna Girls School with just 80 girls from very low income backgrounds, who mostly work as domestic helpers or take care of their younger siblings while their parents are out working. Today Prerna has 880 girls who study from nursery to class 12. They are charged a fee of 100 INR per month; given season appropriate dresses and a mid-day meal. In the past 14 years, Prerna has maintained a high retention rate, above 75% and a 98% transition rate from school to college education. Several girls from Prerna, have gone on high school and Community College scholarships to the USA.

Dr.Sahni has taken her critical feminist pedagogy and curriculum to all the 746 Kasturba Gandhi Ballika Vidyalayas in UP and 200 in Rajasthan. She has pioneered teacher training programs in issue based Drama, activity-based learning and critical feminist pedagogy. Her goal is to impact the national curriculum such that it includes gender education in a focussed and direct manner.

She believes, India cannot take its place in the forefront globally unless we improve our treatment of our girls and women and education is an important pathway to achieve gender equality. Dr.Sahni has developed teaching learning material, using simple video technology, which she has used very effectively in large-scale teacher training programs. She was awarded the Asoka Fellowship in 2010 for this.

Dr.Sahni has a Masters and a PhD from University of California, Berkeley. She was the first graduate from the Graduate School of Education, Berkeley to be awarded the prestigious International HAAS award. She has worked in curriculum reform, teacher education and school reform in collaboration with national and state governments and nonprofits in UP and other states in India. She is currently an honorary member of the Chief Ministers Advisory Council in Rajasthan (education sub-group). She is also a non-resident fellow at the Centre for Universal Education at the Brooking Institution in the USA, contributing to education reform globally.