Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Power of Education

I know it's not as simple. Education does not necessarily bring empowerment. But when you read Tererai's story, it's difficult not to think otherwise:

After much argument, the father allowed Tererai to attend school for a couple of terms, but then married her off at about age 11.

Tererai’s husband barred her from attending school, resented her literacy and beat her whenever she tried to practice her reading by looking at a scrap of old newspaper. Indeed, he beat her for plenty more as well. She hated her marriage but had no way out. “If you’re a woman and you are not educated, what else?” she asks.

Yet when Jo Luck came and talked to Tererai and other young women in her village, Luck kept insisting that things did not have to be this way. She kept saying that they could achieve their goals, repeatedly using the word “achievable.” The women caught the repetition and asked the interpreter to explain in detail what “achievable” meant.

[...]

After Luck and her entourage disappeared, Tererai began to study on her own, in hiding from her husband, while raising her five children. Painstakingly, with the help of friends, she wrote down her goals on a piece of paper: “One day I will go to the United States of America,” she began, for Goal 1. She added that she would earn a college degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. — all exquisitely absurd dreams for a married cattle herder in Zimbabwe who had less than one year’s formal education. But Tererai took the piece of paper and folded it inside three layers of plastic to protect it, and then placed it in an old can. She buried the can under a rock where she herded cattle.

Read the rest of Tererai's story in this New York Times Magazine essay titled The Women's Crusade (excerpted from a forthcoming book titled "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn). Her story and the stories of some of the other women profiled in the essay are exhilarating.

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