Are women worthy enough of an education? The lack of educational access for women should not be viewed as a problem a world away.
Girls Rising, Half the Sky and He Named Me Malala are all documentaries that illustrate how many stories of girls that have been denied access to a right that is at the foundation of freedom: an education.
The heartbreaking narratives of a few girls expose the plight of 62 million girls worldwide who struggle to achieve their dreams.
These girls are locked out of mainstream society and unable to positively contribute to the globalized economy. They are a huge source of untapped potential.
In East Asia, women are the focus of the region’s development strategy. As explained in Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this is known as “the girl effect.”
By utilizing women in the formal economy, the region saw significant improvements in the labor market. Officials immediately noticed the benefits of educating girls the same as boys, and allowed women to move into the cities so that they can receive factory jobs.
Women also began delaying marriage and childbearing. In the meantime, they financed the education of younger generations and saved enough money to raise national savings rates. In other words, women enhanced economic development.
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate, spoke out at the tender age of 7 against the Taliban, who made it illegal for girls to be educated in her Pakistani hometown.
Taliban sympathizers told Malala’s father and uncle that they were fools because they were advocates of educating women, and that if women were educated they would overpower men.
Malala simply challenged the militants in her speech entitled How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education. When Malala gained national attention, the Taliban attempted to silence her by assassination, but she rose triumphantly over her oppressors.
Women of the 21st century face persecution daily, uneducated and bearing the brunt of the burden. They often find themselves victims of social ills that range from labor and sex trafficking to domestic violence.
For these women, education is the only way out of darkness, and a step into the light.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been vocal about the need to educate girls worldwide. She has publicly declared her support via #62milliongirls on Twitter, along with countless elected officials and celebrities.
She recently attended a Glamour Magazine event in New York City where she spoke to a group of school aged girls about the importance of education.
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens,” she said.
The minds of women should be cultivated for the sake of humanity.
Supporters of education and women attended the #UHStandswithMalala event that was held on campus, where urban artist Anat Ronen painted a mural in support of women’s education (live) this week on the lawn outside of the Graduate College of Social Work.
Representatives were able to answer any questions, and informed participants about the various ways they can increase their involvement in advocating for women’s education.
It is detrimental to be silent.
Devonte Hardy is a social work graduate student.