By: Calla Gilson
We take education for granted. Sure, we might be thankful for accelerated classes available to us, or for our calculus teacher who often has just the right amount of patience to help us understand the material. But really, in the United States, we often take education for granted. Education goes beyond ‘reading, ‘ritting and ‘rithmatic. If we look at the many issues plaguing girls throughout the world today; child marriage, FGM, poverty, political inequality; it’s interesting to note that in one way or another, the lack of educational opportunity that girls are facing aligns closely with these issues.
When we examine the foundation of our belief system, it is clear that what we know to be true, and the way that we discovered things all comes back to our education. Whether formal or informal, education is empowerment; it is the ability to learn, and in turn the perspective that we gain to either accept or reject what we are told is true. The age-old adage tells that knowledge is power. I would challenge that and propose that it’s more what the knowledge enables us to do that truly provides us with power.
This month, my school’s Social Justice Alliance was discussing the issue of slavery. If we analyze the history of slavery, regardless of nation or race, what stands out is that those in control of a marginalized group denied their slaves education. With education comes the ability to reason, to question authority, and more importantly to recognize the inherent value and human rights of every individual. When I opened the SJA meeting by discussing child marriage, there was mild confusion among the group about how the topic relate to our focus on slavery. But after watching this video on child marriage, it became clear to everyone how child marriage enslaves thousands of girls every year, and more importantly, that a lack of education is what truly incapacitates cultures that continue to inflict such oppressive practices on their young girls. Not only is formal education no longer an option for married girls in many nations, but the very ability of the girls to initially reject the marriage is denied by their lack of recognition of their individual rights and value, that often contrast with oppressive culture.
Education is the answer. Not only education of girls, but education of communities; mothers, fathers, political leaders; it takes a society to change unjust cultural norms. The international organization Girls Not Brides has rallied around education as a powerful strategy to advance the position of girls around the globe. You can read more about their belief in education as a solution to a plethora of problems here.
So the next time you find yourself complaining about class, your homework load, or whatever school glitch may be getting you down, remember the power that lies within the institution of education, and those who are so often denied its life-changing strength. Continue to educate yourself in order to work for a world in which every girl has the opportunity to benefit from the power of education.