The most valuable process in which a woman can engage to empower herself is education—not just traditional subjects she can learn in school, but a lifetime learning process that enhances her experience. Entrepreneur and publisher of Forbes magazine Malcom Forbes said, “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” The sooner a woman’s mind is opened to the possibilities that could be within her reach with sustained effort, the more time she has to explore her options, surmount any obstacles, and create the life that best fulfills her values and objectives.
While a traditional education can teach us how to read and use basic math—skills that are no doubt useful in everyday life—the ultimate purpose of education is to inspire us to live fulfilling lives, awaken our sense of curiosity, require that we think for ourselves, and teach us how to use available tools that help us evolve into enlightened human beings. Ideally the process begins at birth and continues throughout life.
Despite the fact that one of the most valuable life skills anyone can learn is how to communicate with effectiveness, formal training is usually reserved for speech and literature classes in high school and college. It would be an exciting step forward to implement interpersonal communication courses as part of the school curriculum. Especially for women striving to progress in a world owned by men, knowing how to communicate to our best advantage can be essential to our advancement and ultimately our survival. If you’ve been motivated to strive for the joy of self-actualization by a teacher, a parent, or another adult during your life, you’re exceptionally fortunate. Any knowledge or advice that helps is to become more self-sufficient is priceless.
Sadly, in the U.S., a quality education is increasingly cost prohibitive. The term higher education generally applies to instruction at university level. This venue is no longer affordable for many qualified youth. To come up with the money for exorbitant admission fees, many students need to take out huge loans, which can require a lifetime to repay. Sometimes a more practical and inexpensive option can be found in vocational schools, trade schools, and other career colleges that award academic degrees or professional certifications.
But overall we’re fortunate to be able to provide a reasonable preparatory experience for women and men who are motivated to learn and increase their odds in creating a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families. Still, many women who are supporting themselves and possibly one or more offspring find it a luxury to enroll in adult education.
In other areas of the globe less solvent than the U.S, education is virtually impossible for millions of its men and women, as are other bare necessities. Although many global initiatives, such as UNICEF, are working hard to raise funds to provide for the crucial needs of third world citizens, it’s still difficult to impossible to meet with the demands of worldwide hunger. Before children can go to school, they need to be saved from starving to death.
Just as appalling, education is denied to millions of women on the basis that it’s not necessary for women. Patriarchy is defined as a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and ownership of property. While patriarchy exists in the U.S., it manifests itself as an extreme form of dominance in parts of Africa and the Middle East. In such cultures, women are not only deprived of education but also violated, abused, and sold into sexual slavery. While women are exercising great courage in resisting these inhumane practices and advocating women’s rights, their task is enormous in the face of widespread violence.
Youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by a terrorist when she was a school girl in Pakistan, has since been bravely leading women at a global level to insist on education for women. One of her most famous quotes is, “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
For many underserved women and girls everywhere, the biggest need is for hope. There’s strength in numbers in answering to this need. Together, we can offer hope and provide for its realization. Each of us can do something to help support education for women—not necessarily by donating money, but by spending some time to teach women vital skills or advocate their advancement through meaningful learning opportunities.
We need to open our hearts and our minds to the potential for women’s freedom to learn and progress in life, and become contributing citizens, without inhibiting influences, such as intimidation.
Discrimination and its consequences, including violence, are based on ignorance. Author and spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” This describes the purpose of education at its finest.
Mary Kathryn M.K. Jones
Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™