Greetings readers! I hope you’re all doing well and enjoyed the last post relating the HIV/AIDS statistics to our student Ashley M. This last week I went to a presentation on the University of Oregon campus from Half the Sky Foundation and that’s what I would like to write about today.
“Half the Sky” and the challenge of gender equality:
Sheryl Wudunn, a charismatic and eloquent speaker, gave an amazing presentation at the University of Oregon last week. The main point of Wudunn’s entire presentation was to show how the world we live in is full of gender inequality. In her speech she addressed three main points relating to this: a lack of women’s education, a serious sex trafficking problem, and a high maternal mortality rate.
At the beginning of Wudunn’s lecture, she discussed how many girls remain uneducated, as many parents believe once they finish school they will just end up working at home or in the fields. For this reason many women never enter the formal labor force because of inadequate training or lack of opportunity. The next problem that Wudunn mentioned is that women around the world are being affected by sex trafficking, with over 800,000 people “trafficked across international borders, and that number doesn’t include the people trafficked within their own borders.” She also discussed how the treatment of these women is becoming more detrimental every year because their value to the buyers is declining, causing buyers to not care as much about the girls’ treatment because they can simply buy a new one. The last and final point that Wudunn brought up as a serious issue was the high number of women that die during labor. In Niger, for example, “1 in 7 women can expect to die during birth.” The points Wudunn made in her presentation were very disheartening, yet she also presented the audience with an image of hope, giving examples of a women or girl who had overcome significant obstacles. These stories were very inspiring and made a very big impact on me.
Relating “Half the Sky” to Tariro’s work:
While Wudunn covered an array of issues affecting women today, the one that is most important in relation to Tariro’s work is women’s education. Wudunn discussed a couple of stories about girls who became successful when given the opportunity to go to school. Throughout the presentation she stated several times that, “girls just need to be given the chance.” Providing this type of educational opportunity is exactly what Tariro is doing. By sending girls to school, we are giving each girl an opportunity to be successful.
Success stories versus human rights:
In a conversation with Tariro’s founder Jennifer after the lecture, however, we remarked that despite all of the wonderful success stories WuDunn had to share about girls that she’s interacted with, she didn’t address what happens to the girls who don’t rise to this kind of outstanding level. The hard thing about this subject is that when organizations only discuss success stories in regards to education, does it begin to imply that the girls who don’t succeed don’t deserve an education?
It is unrealistic to assume that every single girl will receive a full ride scholarship to a college in America, or that they will pass their O level and A level exams. And then this brings us to the question of who does deserve an education. An education is not something that should be chosen for a person but something that should be provided for every one. Every single person on the planet has a right to learn and succeed in life. Education is a basic human right, it is something that every one should receive no matter what social status or gender they are. For this reason it is important to look at the success stories but also look beyond them and at the grander scheme of things.
Back to our readers…
While we love to share the stories of some of our incredibly successful students, success isn’t always getting a scholarship to attend university or finish A level study. Sometimes, it’s simply learning how to read, staying enrolled in school, or getting caught back up to grade level after a long absence. What do you think? How can organizations emphasize the successes stories of particular individuals without losing sight of the basic issues of human rights guiding their work? How might we tell the stories of exceptionally successful students without downplaying equally important, but much smaller successes in other students’ lives?
Thanks for reading, and for your comments.