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The Special, Spacious School of Hope. By Siyona Bordia

Humanity has fought hard to make progress in achieving gender equality. But all over the globe, girls still lack access to proper education. Their dreams are left unfulfilled and unattainable. Therefore, it is the Princeton Foundation’s ultimate goal to maximize the empowerment of girls and women, and others appear to have the same intention.

Michael Daube, founder of the non-profit organization (CITTA), and US-based architect Diana Kellog strongly believed in increasing women's empowerment. Hence, they decided to construct a school for girls when they witnessed the remarkably low literacy rates in India for women. “The girls are in dire need of support. More women need to be empowered and educating them is the only solution,” Michael proclaimed when planning the project.

The only catch is the school’s location: in the middle of a desert. While several people call the Thar desert their home, its temperatures peak at fifty degrees Celsius, and sandstorms occur frequently. So it may seem impossible that a school, where children come to learn, is being created in the very same location. However, Kellog and Daube not only dream but put their dreams into action. Daube visited several Indian neighborhoods close by in an attempt to discover more about the cultures and ideas in India. In doing so, she acquired plenty of ideas on how to install the structure uniquely.

Finally, the school was constructed into a peculiar shape: an ellipse. Daube explained that the shape reduced distances between specific places in the building. The ellipse was also a symbol of infinity and womanhood. “It represents the close circles of a community, like the extended aunts, uncles, and relatives, are unique to Indian culture,” Diana tells The Better India.

In building the school, Kellog and Daube encountered many hardships. The budget was overwhelmingly large, there was the challenge of making a school in the desert’s harsh conditions, and nearby neighborhoods resisted the school’s construction. “The area is resistant to teaching their girls,” Kellog explained, and hoped that building the school would make it “less intimidating and easier to send girls there.”

Lastly, this project is the epitome of sustainability. The airflow moves in a pattern that naturally cools the building. There are also solar panels positioned at the top of the building that generates energy and forms a canopy. Most of the building is constructed of sandstone and helps to minimize the carbon footprint.

Now, the school is finished, and an elegant structure representing womanhood stands proudly amid the desert landscape. Besides being an education center, the school will serve as a global platform to host events for both women’s empowerment and programs like Ted Talks. Michael hopes that more and more people will learn about the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School, and feel inspired to strive for gender equality.

The school portion (the Gyaan Centre) will educate and accommodate four hundred girls from kindergarten to Class X. The striking structure also holds a textile museum and performance hall, as well as an exhibition area for arts and crafts to be sold. Additionally, women will be trained in weaving and traditional arts to preserve handicrafts.

Blood, sweat, millions of dollars, and the time of two years were poured into the composition of the sumptuous, sustainable building amid the Thar desert. The finalized product is the key to attaining women's empowerment until everyone has equal access to education and their dreams. The Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s school is set to open soon (unknown due to the pandemic)--and this “ripple in the desert,” will have a potent impact on all girls in the years to come.

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