Holding Up Half the Sky: Educating Girls Makes It Possible

Why is the liberating education of girls so important in countries that are male dominated? (ignoring here for a moment that all countries are male dominated to a greater or lesser extent on a continuum).  Obviously it is important for girls and women to be educated in whatever form.  But the critical point is that a liberating form of female and male education is key to humanizing society as a whole.
Recall Adelina Chom,Adelina described in an earlier post about the important place of theater in the accurate delivery of history of the violence that tore at the village in February of 1982.  In the play, “The Past Is With Us,” Adelina played the role of a mother who lost her thirteen year-old daughter in a massacre at the time of the destruction of the village in which she experienced some depth of the grief the mother had felt in losing her child.  As she cried out and spoke she was projecting her voice to many audiences as the play toured the country.
Adelina went on to become an outstanding teacher in both the primary and middle schools.  In one middle school class that included students from a nearby village, she had the students research the birth rates of children in the two communities.  The rate was much

lower in Santa María Tzejá than in the other village.  When the children reflected on the difference in rates, one of the SMT girls said, “Well, families can do something about that!”—a reflection on what that student had learned in school and in her own family.  At an earlier point middle school girls had done skits in their own homes keyed to the point that birth control pills don’t cause cancer–a propaganda point that had taken hold in women’s minds.  As a result of the rising use of birth control, the number of students in the lower grades of the primary school dropped off and that wave moved up through the grades–the result of a very specific point in liberating education of the students that radiated to the parents.
One noteworthy gender exchange came when Adelina was part of a three-person team of SMT young women who went to other villages to urge residents to support a referendum that was designed to stop mining companies from mining in villages OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwithout permission  A large and loud-mouthed man tried to shout down the young women, arguing that as women they couldn’t possibly have any accurate or relevant information to share.  Adelina and her two companions stood their ground and didn’t let the man silence them as they successfully communicated the reasons for their position.  Only a liberating education could have given them the courage to face down the bully and create the conditions in which change could take place.
At left, Adelina, when she taught in the middle school, with her baby.
Think of the impact of this one village of some 1300 people from which more than 300 young people have graduated from high school, for which they had to go outside the village, which has no high school.  More than eighty have gone on to university studies and 18 have graduated so far from this one village.  Roughly half of all the graduates have been young women.  SMT stands out as unique among Guatemalan villages for the numbers of students and graduated professionals.  The experience of this village make clear the possibilities that lie in communities throughout the world where so much of the potential is lost, especially for girls who are valued as less worthy of any education, let alone a liberating one.
Mao Tse Tung famously noted, “Women hold up half the sky.”  But it is clear that such a sky is dangerously dark where girls and women are not given a liberating education–and how brightly the possibilities shine when they receive it!
I invite you to read my book, Seeds of Freedom: Liberating Education in Guatemala, and to follow my blog on my “Seeds of Freedom” Facebook page

2 responses to this post.

  1. Great post. I would like to share it on the fb page for School for New Mayas (Centro de Formation Nuevos Mayas in Xix, El Quiche. Educating girls and young women is a priority and, after many ups and downs, taking hold.


  2. Great post. I enjoyed reading it!


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