Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
How Girls Achieve

How Girls Achieve

Sally A. Nuamah

ISBN 9780674980228

Publication date: 04/22/2019

Request exam copy

Winner of the Jackie Kirk Award
Winner of the AESA Critics’ Choice Award

“Blazes new trails in the study of the lives of girls, challenging all of us who care about justice and gender equity not only to create just and inclusive educational institutions but to be unapologetically feminist in doing so. Seamlessly merging research with the stories and voices of girls and those who educate them, this book reminds us that we should do better and inspires the belief that we can. It is the blueprint we’ve been waiting for.”
—Brittney C. Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage

“Nuamah makes a compelling and convincing case for the development of the type of school that can not only teach girls but also transform them…An essential read for all educators, policymakers, and parents invested in a better future.”
—Joyce Banda, former President of the Republic of Malawi

This bold and necessary book points out a simple and overlooked truth: most schools never had girls in mind to begin with. That is why the world needs what Sally Nuamah calls “feminist schools,” deliberately designed to provide girls with achievement-oriented identities. And she shows how these schools would help all students, regardless of their gender.

Educated women raise healthier families, build stronger communities, and generate economic opportunities for themselves and their children. Yet millions of disadvantaged girls never make it to school—and too many others drop out or fail. Upending decades of advice and billions of dollars in aid, Nuamah argues that this happens because so many challenges girls confront—from sexual abuse to unequal access to materials and opportunities—go unaddressed. But it isn’t enough just to go to school. What you learn there has to prepare you for the world where you’ll put that knowledge to work.

A compelling and inspiring scholar who has founded a nonprofit to test her ideas, Nuamah reveals that developing resilience is not a gender-neutral undertaking. Preaching grit doesn’t help girls; it actively harms them. Drawing on her deep immersion in classrooms in the United States, Ghana, and South Africa, Nuamah calls for a new approach: creating feminist schools that will actively teach girls how and when to challenge society’s norms, and allow them to carve out their own paths to success.


  • Nuamah presents extensive research on the educational challenges that still exist for
    girls…Her solution is ‘feminist schools,’ designed to foster ‘achievement-oriented identities’ in all students and teach skills like self-confidence, moral fortitude and bravery. Nuamah’s earnest writing style and persuasive research will leave you wondering not why, but when we should start constructing such schools.



  • 2020, Winner of the PROSE Awards
  • 2020, Winner of the Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award
  • 2020, Joint winner of the AESA Critic's Choice Book Award


  • Sally A. Nuamah is a scholar, activist, and filmmaker. She has received numerous awards, including the Gates Millennium scholarship and the Black Women Organized for Political Action’s Under 40 Award in Education, and was selected a Change-Maker by the White House. “HerStory,” her award-winning documentary on girls and education in Ghana, has been screened across the world and is accessible through Discovery Education. She began the TWII Foundation to provide funding for girls striving to be the first in their families to go to college. Most recently, Nuamah was named a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and a Women and Public Policy fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Book Details

  • 216 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press