Students Speak: Inequality
May 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
Inequality – by Sasha, a high school junior.
If you’re like me, school takes up huge amount of your time and energy. Before you started reading this article, you were probably thinking about school. Maybe you’re worried about an upcoming math test, or thinking about how little sleep you got last night because you were up so late doing homework. Or maybe you were just thinking about someone who you’re hoping to sit next to in your next period class. In New York City, going to school isn’t really a choice and it is easy to think about all the trouble school causes. However, without the education that we are provided, we couldn’t be prepared to lead the life we want to live.
Nearly 66 million girls around the world (two-thirds of the world’s children) do not have access to education, leading to a higher illiteracy rate among women than men. 70 percent of the world’s poorest individuals are girls and women, meaning that a huge amount of the female population does not have the money to go to school. There are many factors other than extreme poverty that prevent girls from achieving access to education, such as childhood marriage and safety concerns like sex trafficking, domestic abuse and hate crimes.
The United Nations defines extreme poverty as living on less than two dollars a day. Many girls do not have access to clean water, resulting in sickness that prevents them from being able to work. Doctor bills result in cutting back even more. Their poverty impacts their educational opportunities as well. They can’t afford the required school uniforms, transportation, or the basic supplies. Unable to afford transportation, they are forced to walk miles to get to classes.
Marriage is a wonderful opportunity to commit your life to someone you love and receive their love and commitment in return. Unfortunately, many women and girls not only have no control over whom they marry, but they also have no control over when they marry. Despite many countries enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, child marriages are still widespread. Poverty, tradition and conflict make the incidence of child marriage very frequent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2006, there were more than 60 million child brides who were married or in union before age 18. For most of those girls, their marriage equals a death sentence to their education because either their husbands don’t allow them to go to school, or they are simply overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a wife.
When talking about sex crimes, rape, and domestic abuse, it is difficult to articulate the traumatic impact it has on the victim’s life. While researching the reality of sex crimes, I was immediately shocked by the numbers. In South Africa, a sex crime happens every 20 seconds. (How long have you spent reading this article?)
- In Southeast Asia, 40% of girls are being sold into prostitution to feed their families.
- In 65% of the cases reported in Cambodia, rape victims were younger than eighteen, and 12% of the perpetrators were closely related by blood or marriage.
- 1 out of 3 women in Asia agreed with at least one reason to justify a husband beating his wife.
Do you believe that there is any reason to justify a husband beating his wife? These beliefs are the result of cultural norms such as preference for males and strict gender roles which allow for this behavior.
Let’s just say, to be optimistic, that a girl is provided with enough money to get to school, have the supplies and the uniform. She has never been physically or physiologically abused, and her parents haven’t made her marry and they allow her to go to school. The issue should be solved, right? Wrong. In November, girls on their way to school in Afghanistan were attacked by two men on their motorcycles who were repulsed by the thought of girls going to school, and thought it was appropriate to throw acid in their faces. 19-year-old Shamsia and her 16-year-old sister Atifa were on their way to Meir Weis Mena School in Kandahar, Afghanistan along with several other teachers and students who were similarly attacked. Unfortunately, hate crimes like these are not unusual.
Education is the most effective means of protection and empowerment for girls living in developing countries. Girls who are educated lead healthier lives, have greater involvement in the social and political life of their communities, marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and play a substantial role in the economic stability of their families. When girls are educated, the world is rewarded by achieving the engagement of an articulate and informed group of women.
Education means learning skills such as mathematics so you can tell if someone is trying to cheat you out of your money, or learning about history so you can try to avoid the mistakes that our ancestors made. Education means being able to read what other people have written, whether that is a fantasy book to allow you to temporarily escape reality, or an instruction manual to teach you how to put together a shelf, or philosophy to stimulate your mind, opening the door to literally endless possibilities. Education means learning how to express yourself in words and speak professionally so that you can become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher and help others in your community.
Girls Learn International Inc. (GLI) is an organization that was designed to specifically tackle this epidemic. In their own words, “GLI pairs American middle and high school-based Chapters with Partner Schools in countries where girls have been traditionally denied access to education. The GLI Program gives students the opportunity to explore issues affecting girls in relation to global human rights, promotes cross-cultural understanding and communication, and trains students to be leaders and advocates for positive change.” Here, at our school, we are very proud to be part of this program. This year the GLI club has raised over $700 for its partner school in Vietnam for orphans with HIV/AIDS. Along with featuring our partner school in a documentary film on AIDS Action day, the GLI club has sent over care packages such as a scrap book with home decorated pages of each of the members as well as a care packages with mix tapes, friendship bracelets and Disney DVDs. Next year the GLI club is excited to make new, fun, creative projects to support the children in our partner school. You, too, can become involved with this cultural exchange by joining the GLI club next year and contributing to providing girls with an education worldwide.
Filkins, Dexter. “Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School.” The New York Times. 13 Jan. 2009.
The World Bank. 2009. The World Bank Group. 18 May 2009 .
Welcome to Girls Learn International. 2008. 18 May 2009 .