There is a saying in the 21st century that if you educate a boy, you educate a boy, but if you educate a girl, you educate a village. From religious backings to socio-economic factors girls around the world are fighting for their rights to an education. They are not only fighting for their right to an education but for their lives, a brighter future. It is surprising that in the 21st century, girls are still fighting for the right to a proper education. While in most parts of the world girls are allowed without issue to study and attend everything from first grade to a higher level of education, the fight for equal education rights for young girls in the Middle East and Asia, due religious and cultural factors rages on. Women’s education allows these women to become less likely to be prone to sexual abuse, and more likely to encourage other girls to obtain an education. These young girls are being shipped off as child brides before they are ever allowed a chance for education.
Girls who learn how to read and write often have a higher life expectancy, a higher chance of using birth control and a greater chance of not becoming child brides due to their devotion to their studies. It is important to educate girls to continue a cycle of female empowerment because without which, many of these girls are prone to abuse, both physical and sexual and need education to rise above it. Sadly, value on girls in some third world countries is significantly less than other places in the world. In third world countries, especially those dominated by a religious backing, such as the Iraq and Afghanistan, women enjoy even less freedom than they do in the United States. Lack of proper care for girls who have reached the age of 12 and over is a huge factor as to absences in schools, and often a girl falls too far behind due to this, and drops out as a result. These issues are more prevalent now to girls in third world countries than anywhere else in the world, where famine, government upheaval, and war and poverty are all issues at the front of people’s minds there.
It is in these where rape is still considered a disgrace on girls rather than being the victims and where girls suffer at the hands of their fathers, husbands and brothers and must submit completely to these male figures in their lives. Meanwhile, girls in first world or more developed countries enjoy more freedom towards their education. These girls have more power to influence the other countries or put pressure on said countries to encourage learning for girls. With the government take over in the early 2000s, the Taliban has largely restricted the education of girls in Pakistan and Central Asia. A courageous girl, Malala Yousafzai has stepped up against the fearful reign and spoken out loudly about the importance of girls’ rights and the importance of girls’ rights for the country and the world. Malala refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. Despite an assassination attempt at the raw age of fifteen, Malala has continued her efforts to secure equal rights for women in a country where women are seen as second-rate citizens, and has raised the issue to a global level of concern and awareness.
At sixteen, Malala has made a full recovery and has become a global symbol of peaceful protest, as well as being the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. Honored with many awards, Malala continues to fight for girl’s rights across the world, speaking on the idea that girls have a larger advantage if educated than boys, and will support each other and encourage education in their daughters so that they will as a whole become a greater educated generation. It costs less to send a girl to school than it does to often purchase many things we value. Part of it includes education about sex and education about birth control, which will often save girls lives, instead of allowing them to continue to have children and risk not only their health but also their education. Teaching girls about using sanitary napkins and educating them about working with their periods is another factor that needs to be addressed to make these girls more aware for when they have to do so. In the 21st century, are women really equals to men?
Despite many margins closing between the two that make for differences, there are just as many margins that separate them still. A Pew Research Center survey proved many still believe men should get preference when it comes to jobs and education: “Only in South Korea (49 percent) and Japan (47 percent) did more people say women are better off than say men are, or that they are the same. It may be that men there “resent being married to their company, and also that there are fewer expectations of women,” Professor True said. “But that’s not equality.” Studies like this show that in almost every other country in the world, that women do not enjoy equal rights. Despite the fact that more women then men are receiving college educations, men still continue to earn more than their female counterparts, continuing the glass ceiling. While women are being elected to higher-powered positions, men still continue to even dominate that. In some countries women are so confined by their religion that very few question it openly or outspokenly, and even fewer have the means or the power to educate themselves. Because of this, women in third world impoverished countries lack sex education and lack medical awareness towards their bodies.
In African countries in small tribes and communities, women are subject to more cases of female genital multiation than anywhere else in the world, brought on by a sect of the Muslin religion that believes women’s satisfaction should only be for baring children, not for sexual pleasure. The World Health Organization defines it as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” WHO notes that there are lasting effects of FGM are “The health effects depend on the procedure but can include recurrent infections, chronic pain, infertility, epidermoid cysts, and complications during childbirth and fatal bleeding.” Because the lack of education geared towards women on FGM is limited, especially where men dominate the landscape of knowledge given out to the public, women are told it is for their health, and believe so.
To most the idea of education seems so simple, but in the Middle East it is anything but. Girls and their supporters put their lives on the line and are being violently threatened, assaulted, bombed and murdered. In many cases militants have attacked government run school that specialized in enrolling girls. We have moved from an old world where the idea of “ if you were a girl, your rights were what others decreed, your status what others ascribed to you, and if your mother was poor, so too would you always be” (Brown, 2013) is no longer and parents want what is best for their child in order to have a better future than their own. Yet these “new world” ideas continue to clash with the traditional and today these girls continue to fight for their right and the traditional believes that many of their elders still hold onto. In the past two years, hundred of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been bombed and shut down by religious activist determined to stop the progression of girls’ education.
Just as the 1960s American civil rights movement, this silent majority is now speaking out. “And, for the first time, it is not adults but girls themselves who are pushing this civil rights movement forward” (Brown, 2013). These girls are not only fighting for their rights but for their lives and their future. In 2007 a survey showed that about 75 percent of girls between the ages of five and nine were not in school. As supportive as their governments seem, it is visible some officials have not accepted equal education for girls. When Morocco’s Education Minister, El Wafa visited a fifth grade class (made up of eleven and twelve year olds) in Marrakech he told 12-year-old Raouia Ayache she was better off leaving school and becoming a child-bride: “You! Your time would be better spent looking for a man!” Raouia, who looked slightly older than the other children in her class, was teased so harshly by her classmates she stopped going to school. This young girl was so humiliated by a government official whose job was to promote education she could no longer face her peers and dropped out of school.
Only after an intervention from the local, Moroccan Human Right Association that she agreed to return to class. Raouia stayed in school, while her family, shocked and appalled at the education minister’s actions protested the government and demanded and apology. The Education Minister only responded saying he did not meant to humiliate her and there were no action taken against him. This goes to show that many government officials have good intentions but do not understand the severity of how they are able to change the minds of their future generations. These officials are those that are able to break them down or empower them.
Across the Indian subcontinent many girls are being forced into arranged marriages and into what their parents believe a better future. Parents have been selling off their children like pieces of their collection. Due to this empowering movement girls are now coming together, village by village and creating “child-marriage-free-zones”. Yemen is one of the worst offenders, where child marriages are seen as completely normal. In recent news a Yemeni girl, Nada Al-Ahdal made international news when she escaped an arranged marriage at the age of ten. Her family had decided to a marry her off to a man Nada had never met. Nada arranged her own escape with the help of her uncle and recorded a message to her family. This brave and composed child stated, “I fled marriage and ignorance, so that I could continue to study.”
Nada then goes onto challenge Yemeni society as she asks, “What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong? Why do you have to marry them off like that?” These words coming from a child make them that more powerful. Throughout the video Nada speaks about how her family threatened to kill her if she ran away and tell about other child brides who have committed suicide as a result of arranged marriages, including her aunt. All of this violence, pain and suffering when these girls simply want to better themselves through education? Myra Evora, country director of Plan Bangladesh campaigns against early marriage and has found that “early and forced marriage often drives girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They tend to miss out on an education, suffer from poor health and give birth to children who are also weak and malnourished.” Many of these parents think they are giving their daughters a better future when in turn they are helping sustain the countries poverty rates. There is a widespread ignorance about the health and economical consequences of early marriage.
Girls from poor families are likelier to become child brides and go on to raise children in poverty. (Zain Al-Mahmood, 2012). When these girls are married off and their families receive a dowry they are unable to continue their educations and many of these child brides become mothers while still being children themselves. Sadly, this illegal dowry has become more important to their families survival then educating their children and giving them long-term skills. Education is crucial to fight child marriages and for these girls to obtain their natural rights. These girls need the help and the support of women around the world to stay empowered and to continue to go grow in their education. One laptop per child is a foundation whose mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education. OLPC aims to provide children with “a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.” (OLPC).
With these tools children are able to pursue education on their own as well as connect with each other, the world and a brighter future. This program has given over 2 million children around the world, XO laptops allowing them to rise up to their potential. OLPC has reached children in Argentina, Rwanda Mongolia and Afghanistan. Half of the OLPC schools in Afghanistan are for girls. Today, 4,500 children in Afghanistan have XOs through One Laptop Per Child as well as the Afghan governments efforts in digitalizing school text and producing new materials to create the computers. We take going to school for granted, missing classes here and there as we choose when children around the world are dying trying to go to school.
From religious backings to socio-economic factors girls around the world are fighting for their rights to an education. They are not only fighting for their right to an education but for their lives, a brighter future. If 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai can start such an empowering movement, imagine what power we will have if we banned together? Whether they want to be musicians, artists, doctors or scientist we have the power to get them back their natural right to choose for themselves. We can work together to help these children who are fighting these stigmas chosen and forced upon them.
Brown, G. (2013, April 08). Girls who risk their lives for education. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/opinion/global/girls-who-risk-their-lives-for-education.html?_r=0 Yousafzai, M. (2009, January). Diary of a pakistani schoolgirl. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7834402.stm Zain Al-Mahmood, S. (2012, October 11). Bangladeshi girls call in ‘wedding busters’ to tackle child marriage. The Guardian . Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/oct/11/bangladeshi-girls-wedding-busters-child-marriage OLPC. (n.d.). Mission. Retrieved from http://one.laptop.org/about/mission Miskin, M. (2013, October 20). Child ‘runaway bride’ speaks out: ‘i fled ignorance’. Retrieved from http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/173004 Crouse, J. (2013, September 14). Child brides and too-early sexual activity. Retrieved from http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/recently_the_world_read_with_horror_about_the_death_of_a_yemeni_8-year-old_child_bride_who_died_of_i.html “analysis: Who are the taleban?.” bbc news. 20 dec 2000. (2000, December 20). Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/144382.stm Media centre. (2013, February ). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ Pakistan: Moves afoot to boost girls’ primary school attendance. (2007, May 27). Retrieved from http://www.irinnews.org/report/72482/pakistan-moves-afoot-to-boost-girls-primary-school-attendance Malala yousafzai: Portrait of the girl blogger. (2010,