After having Mrs Toyin Saraki deliver a speech in school, I found myself incredibly inspired. Mrs Saraki is the founder and director of Wellbeing Foundation Africa which advocates for “maternal, newborn and child health, rights and empowerment in order to reverse the vicious cycle of poverty”. She spoke about the troubles women faced in Africa, such as the fatal effects of poverty on maternal and infant health and how students can do something about it. She had hoped to affect us in some way by raising such issues, keeping in mind that the responsibility of improving these conditions is in our hands. Simply by being aware allows for many possibilities and brings us one step closer to a solution.
My solution is this: education for girls. It probably doesn’t surprise many of you that not all children have equal opportunities to education if boys are seen as more valuable than girls. It seems obsolete and distant. Yet, the fact that Malala was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her passion for education displays the prejudice that still exists today and it is a critical issue. In these circumstances, it is crucial to see to that girls are able to exercise their basic human right to education. It might surprise you that in countries where all children are seen to have equal opportunities to education, there are instances in which boys are deemed as more important than girls. For instance, if a co-ed school implements a dress code concerning only girls, the school implies that having fewer distractions for boys is more important than a girl’s right to education. Sending a girl home because of this implies that the way she is dressed more important than her education, therefore insinuating that girls are inconveniences, distractions, and simply, not equal. A friend of mine belongs to a fairly prestigious family back in Thailand. He’s my age, and we went to the same international school. His sisters, however, were sent to local Thai school with very little opportunity to learn to speak english even though their parents were able to afford it just because of their gender. This is very common and this should not be the case. A girl’s right to education is as important as any.
However, an academic education is not enough. One of my teachers said, “Boys are confident. If they’re shy, they sing louder. Be more boy.” Why is it that boys are generally seen as more confident than girls? I believe it’s because boys are given support in school as well as at home. That’s not to say that as a community, we don’t do the same. Yet, generally, not only do boys pick on girls, girls pick on girls too. It is essential for schools to provide an environment for girls to be confident, ambitious, and supporting. A girl with unwavering confidence and support will go far because she will not be ashamed of any aspect of herself, whether that be her intelligence, her appearance, or her attitude, and rightly so. A girl’s voice should be loud and clear, and most importantly, heard.
Written By: Mint Kovavisarach