The Effects of Empowering Women

By Racy M. ’17

When girls are empowered, it benefits all of us. Investing in girls is key to reducing poverty: Girls who receive an education marry later, have fewer children, and are more likely to get healthcare for themselves and their children. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s future earnings by 10-20%.” (Girl Up: Why Girls?)

As I read the chapter “Learning to Speak Up” in Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in our Global Issues class it made me think of my experience this past summer when I had the opportunity of going to the Dominican Republic through a program called “Rustic Pathways.” For sixteen days I helped build houses for members of the poorest communities. In one of the communities we visited, Monte Coca, there were three women who operated and owned their own soap factory. The communities in the Dominican Republic called “bateys” did not have a garbage truck to pick up all of their waste so the trash was thrown everywhere, which caused many diseases. These women took the initiative to get ingredients to make body wash, shampoo, and hand soap for the people in their community with their bare hands, and that is not an easy job. I, along with the other students I was traveling with, helped to mix the soap. This consisted of a four-foot-tall vat filled with various liquids being stirred with a six-foot wooden pole. Each person could only stir it for a couple minutes before getting tired, while these three women make soap all day. This really put into perspective for me how much work these women invest into making soap to help their families and friends. They sell these items to make money for themselves and to support their families while helping others as well.

Women in male-dominated cultures are taught to accept their position as the subjugated gender, but the women who stand up to this social norm are the ones who empower women around the world to do the same.

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How Illiterate Women Become Solar Engineers

By Ben S. ’16 and Ana P. ’16

According to the Clinton Global Initiative, When women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35% for men.”

In our Global Issues class, we discussed the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, focusing on the third goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women across the globe. While researching wide-ranging topics such as women’s participation in politics, domestic violence, and women’s share of the workforce, our class watched the documentary Solar Mamas. According to Matthew Devlin, Interim Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Barefoot College, the college is a “community development institution focused on non-formal education, women’s empowerment, and community advocacy.” The college takes in older women from developing nations, most of whom have received little or no formal education, and turns them into solar engineers. The film follows a Jordanian woman named Rafea, who travels to India to study solar panels in order to become a solar engineer. She faces numerous barriers and challenges along the way, including her illiteracy, her husband, her obligations to her family, and cultural norms that discourage her from creating her own business. Nonetheless, her discovery of learning gives her a sense of purpose aside from family care. According to Devlin, the Barefoot College training programs have resulted in women from 64 countries bringing solar power to 1,160 rural villages and providing light for 450,000 people. In recognition of International Women’s Day, our class wanted to share the story of Barefoot College, and encourage you to check out Solar Mamas at this link and to learn more about Barefoot College.

Global Conference for Women’s Rights Across the World

By Isabelle R. 16

According to UN Women and the Local Media Monitoring Project, “1 in 4 people heard or read about in the news are women.”

Last week our class joined an online conference, through TakingITGlobal, with other schools from Canada for a discussion in light of International Women’s Day on March 8th. We spoke with Lindsay DuPre from Toronto, who is an advocate for indigenous women in Canada. She explained some of the unequal treatment toward indigenous women both socially and politically. According to Lindsay, in Canada’s indigenous cultures women were viewed as powerful leaders in their families and communities. When European colonists arrived on Canadian soil, they weakened the indigenous groups by taking power away from their women. Eventually, the colonists overthrew the indigenous people and their culture, which held women in high regard. According to Lindsay, today less than 1% of Canada’s land belongs to indigenous peoples. When Lindsay told us this story, I felt as though it was unjust for the colonists to intrude on the indigenous people and alter their culture. However, it made me wonder if we are viewed in that same way in our efforts to help developing countries advance. It’s easy to develop a bias and believe that the American culture is the “right” culture, but maybe we are being more invasive rather than helpful.
We also spoke with a young woman named Aameena from Egypt. She believes in Islamic feminism and is working to gain equal rights for women in the Middle East. Aameena shared some examples of women activists in Egypt who were empowered to speak up but were arrested and jailed for demonstrating without permission. She also shared some of her personal views as an activist through her poetry, highlighting the fact that she believes “a woman’s voice is a revolution.” When we asked her how we could best support movements in equality for women, she urged us to use social media for something we believe in. She went on to explain that one of the best ways to advocate for women’s rights is to utilize social media to share the stories of activists to help spread awareness. As a class, we were inspired by Aameena and so we are now using Moses Brown’s media platforms to continue to spread awareness and knowledge in our own community. By sharing stories and information through social media, we hope we can educate a larger audience.

Why We’re Sharing

By Zoë T-D. ’17

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Global Issues is a class co-taught by Beth Lantz and Abbie Isom with seven students — Katchene K., Racy M., Ava L., Izzy R., Ben S., Ana P., and Zoë T.D. For the past two months, we have been talking about how to combine math and humanities in looking at gender inequality across the globe to understand the issue, what the most effective solutions are, and how we can do better work to promote equality. We each wrote a paper focusing on progress in gender equality in different countries based on United Nations (UN) data about political representation, primary school enrollment, and wage sector participation, and then worked together to discuss what we decided are the three most pervasive barriers to gender equality today: inequality in private and public decision making, violence against women and girls, and gender-based discrimination in law and in practice. Last Thursday, March 3rd, we participated in a section of a TakingITGlobal online conference focusing on International Women’s Day. We heard about the issues indigenous women in Canada are facing and how they are taking action from a Metis woman, and about women activists in Egypt from an Egyptian university student. When asked what we should be doing to help women struggling with gender inequality and other problems, both of them said the same thing: read and share their stories. When women are able to share their stories and be heard and recognized, they gain power and agency. So in honor of International Women’s Day, the Global Issues class wanted to share what we’ve learned about gender inequality around the world.