Women and Education

Every one would have heard of Montessori schools which are very specialized school for kids which focus on education through play. Ever thought about who conceived the concept and when. It was Maria Montessori. She lived from 1870 to 195. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome's Medical College, famous for her work in the education of young children. The schools that we know today are named after her.

In 1819 Emma Willard writes her “plan for Improving Female Education”. Though it was not as successful as expected it defined the road map for female education. Even in the 1900s, Mary McLeod Bethune dedicated her life to improving educational opportunities for African Americans, founded school for African American girls. Helen Keller is a very familiar name with all. She was a triple handicap (deaf , dumb and blind) who incredibly went on to show that a will is all that matters to achieve. Not even her unfateful circumstances prevented her form getting a good education and proceeding much beyond that.She overcame blindness and deafness, graduated from Radcliffe, gave many speeches on behalf of the physically handicapped and wrote several books. Her inspiration was her teacher Anne sullivan.

Recently Malala Yousafzai was given a chance to address the UN gathering about women and education. The speech that she gave was so in-depth and full of determination that it is difficult to belie that speech came form a 16-year old. She threw light on the plight on Afgan women and stressed more than once that education was extremely important for a dignified survival. In her own words,

I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.

Their right to be educated.

Article 26 of universal declaration of human rights states thus:

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
The world average literacy rate is estimated to be 84%. But sadly India registers the largest illiterate population. Needless to say, the population comprises a majority of women.

What does this show?

 That we have not taken education for women seriously yet. In increasing population, females are made to take over activities like farming which was once a male role. The tasks which does not require any formal education are gladly pushed to the female boundary and to sustain it, the society maps such activities are women-centric. Less than 2% of women who are involved in agriculture are educated. Inequality based on gender differences thrive even better today, increasing the uneducated female population to alarming levels. Even during the previous centuries when the world was not so much civilized  we had women pioneers in the field of education. It is a crime today to think education for women is an extravaganza. A woman is entitled to as much liberty as a man in getting an education. I might even go to the extent to say that she has the fundamental right to education. It is a chance for her to change her life positively and influence hundreds of others in doing so. Like how Helen Keller or Maria would never be forgotten ever.


Special Note:
International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on 8 September. It aims to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

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