Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,’ Nelson Mandela once said. There is another quote I would like to add: ‘No one can ever take your education away from you.’
This was often repeated to me by my mother. As a young child my mother would tell me that she wanted me to pursue my graduate degree. As a seven-year old, I had absolutely no idea what that meant. However, education remained one of the defining features of my childhood as it flowed into adulthood. What was even more impactful was that my mother emphasized this more frequently to me, a girl, than my brother.
Over the years, I began to understand why. We originate from South Asia, a region that has a complex relationship with education for women. My mother wanted to ensure that I had the tools to live my life without having to depend on anyone. It was the twenty-first century equivalent of learning how to start a fire.
For hundreds of years women have been dependent on their fathers, then their husbands for their economic well-being. Jane Austen’s entire literary career was based on that concept. Miss Bates from Austen’s novel Emma highlights the life a woman who has no alternative other than to live a life of relative poverty compared to her peers.
Education is not a luxury, nor a privilege, education is a need for everyone, especially women. It took me some time to really understand the true meaning of my mother’s words. It is more than just being able to get a job; it Is about knowing what possibilities I have. In the event of a catastrophe, it means I can put food on the table and a roof over my head. In less dire times, it means I have the ability to think critically and to understand the world for all it represents – the good, perplexing and disturbing.
Thus, I encourage, both, men and women, to empower females and help broaden access to education. There are obviously many ways to do this, either altruistically through charities that enable education, or simply by being supportive of girls in your family as they go to school. And remember, that no matter what happens, the education that a girl attains can never be stripped away from her.
Article provided by Sarah Iqbal-Khan
Sarah is an aspiring writer, who loves to travel and hopes to one day trek the Himalayas. She is an avid stamp collector and enjoys learning about new places and their histories through stamps. She currently lives in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband.