Dear UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet,
In November of 1974, Indira Gandhi held an address at the Indraprastha College for Women in Delhi, India. She started her speech with an ancient Sanskrit saying: “Woman is the home and the home is the basis of society. It is as we build our homes that we can build our country. If the home is inadequate, then that country cannot have harmony - and no country that does not have harmony can grow in any direction at all.” Gandhi was addressing not only the poor faculties of education given to Indian women at the time, but also the poor state of education for women around the world, which persists in underserved communities to this day. Such a failure comes from a misunderstood definition of the term “education”.
Education is not only a way of making people literate. It is not simply the passing down of ideas, skills and values from one generation to the next. The word education comes from the Latin root of the word educere, which means, “Bring forth what is within”. Education is a way of opening people up to communicating and expressing their individual ideas. In order for society to build itself physically, economically and socially, it must first build itself ethically and ideologically. Actions must first come with thought, because deed without contemplation often has disastrous consequences. And when a culture stifles the ideas of half of its citizens, it is squandering half of an invaluable resource.
I sincerely believe in the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Telling communities how they should live does not assure that they will follow our standards of right and wrong. However, when people see the costs and benefits of the choices they make, they will make decisions based on the outcome with the most benefits. I currently work for an organization called PCI-Media Impact. Our mission is to empower communities worldwide to inspire enduring change through the use of creative storytelling. Our programs use broadcast media and Entertainment-Education programs to encourage millions within underserved communities to advocate for their health, conserve natural resources and live in a sustainable way. But what I like most is that these programs are all produced by the same communities they seek to serve. The community members write, perform, and broadcast radio programs and television soaps for all the issues mentioned. Whereas our job is to provide training and resources, theirs is to keep the ideas flowing, culturally relevant and conducive to positive change.
What I would like to see the U.N. do more of is create programs that focus on building the self-efficacy of women. All women should have a voice. Educating women ensures the education of their children, as the mother is often a child’s first teacher. In order to target greater audiences and promote dialogue and discussion between communities, the U.N. should look to its greatest resource – media. Promote the creation of Entertainment-Education programs that center on gender equality and the necessity of schooling, and soon you will have an entire world that knows how to fish.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Nabila Eltantawy 19 Brooklyn, NY
As the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women officially begins its work this month, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What is YOUR vision and recommendation for UN Women? We invite you to raise your voice by writing a letter to UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet outlining your recommendation for how this new UN agency can truly affect change on the ground to promote gender equality and uphold the rights and needs of women both on a local and global scale. Learn more:
Take action! This post was submitted in response to UN Women: Visions and Recommendations.