Gender Equality Begins with Education for All

Queen Consort of Jordan, Rania al Abduallah, once said, “Educate a woman and you educate her family. Educate a girl and you change the future.” It isn’t the first time the importance of educating women has been stressed. Brigham Young made a similar statement in saying, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” The meaning is clear – women must be educated in order to participate in society and help build the future. By investing in the future of young girls you are investing in the future of your country. When those girls grow up they become mothers who educate their children, give back to their community, and propel their country forward. The future of a nation begins with the right to education. In many parts of the world, however, women are not given this basic right.

Malala Yousafzai is one such woman who fought for education. Malala defied the Taliban in Pakistan by daring to go to school, and was then shot by the same group of men who believe women do not deserve an education. In Nigeria close to 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, many of whom have not yet been released. In Somalia, girls were forcibly removed from school by extremist group al-Shabab to become their wives. All around the world girls face extreme obstacles in the path towards education.        

Despite these obstacles, girls and women have not stopped striving for equal rights and equal education. They have not given up hope for a future where it will not be unconventional to see a girl in the schoolroom. But they cannot fight this fight alone. It should not be solely the woman’s responsibility to fix a system put in place by men, a system overwrought by hatred and discrimination. It’s time we educate men.

Before the above statement unduly offends anyone, let’s clarify – in addition to educating girls, we need to educate our boys around the world about the importance of all human beings. To stop the men who believe their worth is above that of a woman, we must start at the beginning. It takes years for hatred and bigotry to settle into the souls of our children. They are not born to hate, they are taught. The men who shoot, rape and maim our young girls were taught to do so by the men who came before them. And they will teach their sons to do the same. If we can reach these boys before they become men, we can teach them that one gender is not more important than another. Being born a woman should not hinder your chances in life. Being born a man should not put you above your mother, your sisters and your wife.

UN Women has already recognized the importance of getting men and boys involved in the fight for gender equality. Their campaign HeforShe works to engage men and boys as advocates for change. They acknowledge the benefits of having people of all gender identities work together as a unified force to bring about a “shared vision of a gender equal world.” This is not just a fight for women; it is a fight for all of humanity. And it starts small, by getting everyone involved and educated on the topic. Let’s not be mistaken, fighting for and supporting equality for women does not mean that you support the degradation of men. That is not the reason for this campaign. HeforShe invites men and boys to “build on the work of the women’s movement as equal partners.” We are all fighting for the same thing – gender equality.

The battle for gender equality does begin with education. Everyone should be allowed to receive an education, and that education should teach the importance of inclusion and equality. Gender equality in itself implies that everyone is included, so why shouldn’t everyone be included in the struggle to reach it? It’s time everyone acknowledges his or her part to play. It’s not just one group’s responsibility; we must all work together for the betterment of our world. Let’s educate the world and change the future.