There was an awesome NYTimes Op ed two weeks ago entitled “What’s So Scary about Smart Girls.” For those of you who don’t feel like reading the article or who have already exceeded your 10 free reads for the month, here’s the summary (but you should read it). Kristof writes in response to the kidnapping of 200 highly educated girls in Nigeria. He says that in this heinous, unthinkable act, there is a high degree of rationality on the part of the fanatics. Educated women, in effect, cause change. We can see countless examples around the world and the reasons are fairly logical. Educated women mean fewer children, both because women are more educated about sexual health and because, frankly, they are busy. Fewer children means more investment in each child, ramping up the percentage of education and ramping down disease in generations to come. Secondarily, by educating women, you are doubling your workforce and adding brilliant new minds to the national discussion. Where would we be as a country if Hilary Clinton, Barbara Walters, and Marie Curie could not read.
I had an extremely privileged education and readily recognize that even in the USA, there is a lot to be done to educate all people, but especially minorities. We need more women in STEM and in upper level management. But let’s come to Haiti for a second.
Compared to Nigeria, Haiti is lucky on two fronts. One, it is a fairly liberal country. In no way are women equal to men: even if a woman works, she is expected to cook, clean, care for the children, and do laundry, all of which here, with limited technology, create a greater than full time job. Domestic abuse is a huge and undiscussed problem. In this strongly hierarchical structure, it can be hard for a woman to get her opinion heard. I could go on. But increasingly, girls and boys are educated side by side with almost the same level of interest in sending them to school (remember that you must pay for almost all education in Haiti.) Secondarily, Haiti is not a war zone. Their resources have been depleted and no one is trying to take their land. Haiti does not have a military and does not need one. They can invest what resources they have in other places. A huge advantage.
Still, it makes me feel good that I teach at a school that is 90% women. Where women’s rights are frequently discussed and how to improve women’s health and women’s positions in society are areas of concern. I live with some incredibly smart girls. And the fanatics should be terrified of them: they will change the world.