Empower girls is fine… but boys are people too.

“Use your power to empower girls” was the headline of the e-mail. Now, I have no issues with empowering girls but the body of the e-mail brought back an old debate for me. A few years ago Oprah started a series of schools in sub-saharan Africa that educated girls and only girls.

I have a huge issue with this practice and the whole concept behind it. Now, if the boys were all educated and that problem was a done deal I could see it… but the boys aren’t actually any more educated than the girls and society might even have more need for them to be educated. See, the boys are the leaders of most societies in that part of the world, and they tend to be sexist as hell. Basically they often view women as little more than chattel. Now, in the west where there are jobs that require education, education allows girls to get out of the home, to develop values that aren’t based on their ability to have sex and bear children. In many third world nations those opportunities don’t exist… meaning that the educated girl is still living in the village with all the boys who have not been educated. Those boys are likely to resent her education and still have an attitude that is based in a different time (I have seen this in action). These boys, as they become adults, will marry these girls who become women… and they will not all treat them kindly due to the resentment over the special privilege. Again, I have seen this in action. If you start by educating both the boys and the girls you open them all up to a larger world, to a world where the boys do not feel that you are excluding them (and believe me, nothing is harder to bear for someone used  to privilege than discovering someone else has what you do not).

So fuck empowering girls, empower people regardless of gender,  give them all the magic of the world, not just one gender or another.

2 Responses to “Empower girls is fine… but boys are people too.”

  1. 1 taidan
    September 17, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I’m not really sure what logic they thought of when they decided that in a group of universally impoverished people, only half should be given a better chance. Even in developed nations where the “empower girls” phase occurred in the 90’s and into today, we see many young men that often don’t know what to do when they get into college. Neglecting these boys in Africa not only limits progression, but as you said, it will fail to help them adjust.

    Sometimes it seems that these people assume that boys become successful, independent young men on their own. I guess they don’t remember that plants don’t bloom without some help.

  2. September 17, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks Taidan,

    I really appreciate the kind words.

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