“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education.”
Thursday 11th October 2012 marked the first International Day of the Girl. There was no way a day like this could pass without mentioning 14 year old Malala. Two days prior Malala woke a generation to the inescapable need to educate young women. She wanted to go to school, and spoke out of the need for other girls, like herself, to also go to school; as a result someone put a bullet through her head and neck with the intention of ending her life.
At times like these we all do well to remember these wise words: ‘You can imprison a person, but not an idea. You can exile a person, but not an idea. You can kill a person, but not an idea.’
Female education is an immensely powerful idea.
Blood on a Pakistani school girl’s uniform does nothing but strengthen this idea tenfold. What any group that wants to maintain, or gain, power most fear is an educated women- for she is an educated person who is able to influence and produce an educated generation. Education is directly linked to empowerment. When people are given the tools to think, analyse and organise themselves it is easy to see straight through groups such as the Taliban, or foreign occupation forces.
The term ‘female education’ not only encompasses allowing girls to attend school, but also educating them about the power structure of the society in which they live. This power structure which is set up so that although a girl achieves better grades than her male counterparts this doesn’t mean that she will then be able to hold positions of influence within the workplace and/or wider society. These positions are reserved for well-connected men. So when we talk about the need for ‘female education’ we should not restrict ourselves to rural areas of South Asia, but also include places a lot closer to home.
It’s ironic that an act to instil fear has actively given courage to a whole new generation. This is the greatest hope for change. Because – indeed – change will come from an empowered women.