The cover story of last Sunday’s New York Times concerned girls’ education as a military strategy. Consider: the prospect of educating girls from poor families in remote villages 10 thousand miles away had always been the stuff of charity, the cause taken up by the saintly and the feeble-hearted. Girls that far away, conventional wisdom dictated, had no bearing on our lives – so, if we were being honest, why should we care about the issue?
The truth is that in the age of globalization, girls in remote villages 10 thousand miles away have much more baring on our lives than we might expect. The U.S. Military has recognized the huge national security value of educating girls in extremist Muslim regions. Provide the girls with a fuller and more secular education, they figure, and those girls will in turn raise their own children with more secular – or, at least, less extremist – principles. In the words of Greg Mortenson author of Three Cups of Tea, they are fighting terrorism by “promoting peace with books, not bombs”.
I like this argument, though I sometimes worry that the military has taken up the cause of providing girls with an education as a fix to a current problem. “Teach those girls some good American values,” I imagine Gen. Patraeus saying, “and they will perpetuate themselves like the story of the thousand Arabian nights.” In actuality, though, emancipating women can have hugely positive economic ramifications.
“I am a high school student, so perhaps single-handedly uplifting the third world is a bit precocious.”
People often seem to forget that women make up half the world’s population. Their overwhelming ingenuity and talent is being squandered at an exponentially faster rate than oil in the gulf. Where they are oppressed – be they raped in the Congo, subjected to acid attacks in Pakistan, or sold into sex slavery virtually anywhere on the globe – they cannot function as contributing members of society. By liberating them from prejudice, violence, and hindrances from work
ing, these women can join the global economy. On a small scale, women who control money have been shown to spend their money on children’s food and education, whereas men who control money spend it much more readily on sugary snacks, alcohol, and gambling. On a more massive scale, working women will increase the workforce, increase the flow of money to the right places, and increase the mind power available for innovation. In short, emancipating women can have the power to lift countries out of the third world.
I am a high school student, so perhaps single-handedly uplifting the third world is a bit precocious. I have always considered myself a feminist, though, and after reading enough on the subject I decided I had to act. I set out to find an organization I liked – the American Assistance for Cambodia – and am now collaborating with them to build a secondary school in rural Cambodia, the sex-trafficking capital of the world. Each girl who gains an education there will become more economically valuable to her family, countering the initiative they would otherwise have to sell her into the booming sex-slave market. My effort now may only liberate a village’s worth of girls, but I hope that in the process my message will spread so other girls, too, can enjoy a taste of freedom. Please visit my website, to learn more and see how you can help.