I would like to dedicate this post to several TED talks delivered by women activists, all of which are united by the topic of women’s education. These talks inspire me as an educator because they tell about a transformative power of education which can reveal the best in a woman.
In one of the books by Diana Wynne Jones, a British fantasy writer, the main character, a teenage boy named Christopher encounters a girl in a fictional world which is worshipped for being an incarnation of a female goddess. The “living goddess” dreams about going to school and living life of an ordinary girl. In the end, she happily escapes. This story is not pure imagination: living goddesses live in our world. Probably, the author, Diana Wynne Jones was inspired to create the female character by the Nepali tradition of choosing a pre-pubescent girl as a living goddess named Kumari. The chosen girl spends several years until she grows up in a temple, not seeing people except for holiday celebrations. Traditionally, she also receives no education. One of the ex-kumaris Rashmila Shakya has fought to abolish this tradition of not getting lessons so that her successors could receive proper education. She was the first kumari to receive bachelor’s degree in information technology after being absolutely lillterate at the age of 12. .
As you can see from this story, even goddesses need education : -) As for mortals, this is a serious issue, especially in developing countries in Asia and Africa.Many women in those countries dream about education to be able to fight for their rights.
The first TED talk that I would like to introduce is by a Syrian female photographer Laura Bushnak. Laura Bushnak tells stories of women from the Arab world, striving for education. She cites one female Yemen teacher’s words: “I sought education in order to be independent and to not count on men with everything. ” She tells the story of an Egyptian woman who joined a nine-month literacy NGO project: “I saw how she was longing to gain control over her simple daily routines, small details that we take for granted, from counting money at the market to helping her kids in homework.” She also tells a story of Fayza, a Yemen woman who was a divorced mother of three children at 18. Since childhood she was forced by her relatives to get married three times. As an Arab woman herself, Laura Bushnak faced many difficulties in pursuing her dream to become a photographer, because she was a woman, and she met many people who told her what she “can and cannot do”. Laura calls women to freedom, citing one of the women she interviewed: “Question your convictions. Be who you to want to be, not who they want you to be. Don’t accept their enslavement, for your mother birthed you free.”
A Pakistani educator, Ziauddin Yousafzai, tells a story of his daughter, Malala who was a famous activist for education: supported by her father, being only 10 years old, she started campaign for her education in Western media. She was successful, but in 2012, when she was only a teenager, she was shot in face by a Taliban “for simply daring to go to school”. When Malala was in hospital, Ziauddin asked his wife if he was guilty for raising his daughter independent, but his wife supported him. Ziauddin compares his daughter to a bird, whose wings he did not clip, and he is proud for this. He could lock his daughter at home and make her be like everybody but he and his family were brave to bring up their daughter as a strong personality.
Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activists, tells a story of an African teenager who dreamt of going to school and when she went to school, was abused by a school sports director “as a favor for getting her in school.” Leymah works to give education to illiterate girls and she sees education as a place where society can help “to unlock intelligence, passion, greatness of girls.”
Education for these women is not a tool for self-development like for women from rich countries but a saving way to control own life. Laura Bushnak, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Leymah Gbowee are from three different parts of the world, but they share the same spirit and the same vision of education. They believe that all women should be educated, because they deserve a better life, indepency, freedom and happiness.
1. Life after the living goddess (Nepali Times) http://nepalitimes.com/news.php?id=18515
2. Laura Boushnak: For these women, reading is a daring act https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_boushnak_for_these_women_reading_is_a_daring_act/transcript?language=en#t-248890
2. Ziauddin Yousafzai: My daughter, Malala https://www.ted.com/talks/ziauddin_yousafzai_my_daughter_malala#t-341394
3. Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls https://www.ted.com/talks/leymah_gbowee_unlock_the_intelligence_passion_greatness_of_girls/transcript?language=en