It is too easy to slip into the frame of mind that thinks the battle for educational access and equality of treatment for girls and women is won when in many countries women are more the 50% undergraduates. They are 65% of students in Iranian universities, but this did not stop the Iranian Science and Education Ministry this August from banning women from studying a variety of disciplines, in particular those where it is considered inappropriate for women to be employed: mining agriculture and engineering being the most obvious, but business studies and hotel management being some of the others. How much has been won if one gender is banned from access to a whole raft of education and the jobs it leads to.
Worse has come more recently when on Tuesday Malala Yousafzai a fourteen year old school girl in Pakistan was shot because of her public campaigning for girls’ education – for herself and girls like herself. In large areas of the world women’s education is such a threat to male dominated cultures that girls and their teachers are shot for going to school
We should be wary of thinking that these kinds of actions happen only in unstable religious fundamentalist states, and remember the Montreal Massacre of 1989, when a male student at the École Polytechnique in Montreal deliberately targeted and killed 14 women, twelve of whom were engineering students, as well as injuring ten other women and four men. That is not so long ago or so far away
It is hard to be positive with events like these in your head but Plan International has just sent me an email reminding me that tomorrow is The First Ever International Day of the Girl- with a major focus on girls education. Online campaigns are not enough by themselves but they remind us that the world is a very hard and unjust place for many girls and women, and access to safe education is the first step towards gender justice and autonomy for most women everywhere.
Watch this video for something uplifting: Because I am a girl