Situating Empowerment for Millennial Schoolgirls in Gujarat, India and Shaanxi, China




Feminist Foundations

Comparative findings from girls’ education projects in Gujarat, India, and Shaanxi, China, are used to explore two questions: How and under what conditions does schooling contribute to girls’ instrumental and intrinsic empowerment? What does it mean to become an educated rural girl in contexts where girls are marginalized? A review of scholarship on empowerment, and the role of schools in enabling that process, is followed by an examination of the school/empowerment link in the case study projects, which to varying degrees have succeeded in assisting girls to gain resources, capabilities, experiences, and networks that expand the lenses through which they see themselves and their authority in the world. Three intertwining processes that affect schooling’s potential to enable girls’ empowerment include: 1.) expanding educational access and opportunities; 2.) declining cultures and economies of son preference; and 3.) shifting levels of “trust” in schools as a critical “good” for girls’ futures. Our designation of participating girls as “millennials” refers both to the era in which they are coming of age, and to how their capabilities, aspirations, and identifications as schoolgirls, daughters, and laborers have been shaped by global, national, and local reinterpretations of the world’s Millennium Development Goals.

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