As seen on the Ashoka Peace Blog at http://peace.ashoka.org/
If you educate a boy, you educate an individual.
If you educate a girl, you educate a community.
No offense to boys, but if social entrepreneurs really get it right, as I have the sneaking suspicion they will continue to do, women will one day rule the world.
Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and the newly published Stones into Schools, spoke at Loyola Marymount University this week about the importance of education for girls, and its direct correlation to fighting the evils that the global community faces, namely terrorism.
A terrorist’s worst enemy is, in fact, an educated woman. Women, who must give permission to their sons to go on jihad, will often refuse if they have received simply even a 5th-grade level education. Educated women represent an exponential possibility for a decrease in poverty, unemployment, and therefore a higher standard of living. Mother really does know best, and those boys who have been blessed with a family who values education and who believe in a promising future will be much less likely to commit themselves to martyrdom, hence decreasing the pool of young minds recruited by those who seek to do evil.
After building numerous schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, Three Cups of Tea became required reading for U.S. senior military commanders. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael G. Mullen, went so far as to visit one of Mortenson’s schools in the Panjshir Valley. In a speech he gave about role of the U.S. military in the Middle East, he says, “We cannot capture hearts and minds. We must engage them; we must listen to them, one heart and one mind at a time – over time.” For a high-ranking military official, his words surprisingly emulate peaceful motives. A huge part of U.S. military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan must be education, especially of women. We must learn not only to communicate what we as Americans have to offer, but encourage and include the perspectives of those whose lives we are affecting.
Last week we read Gayle Lemmon’s article about the U.S. military partnership with female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan: a great first step. I challenge the military to bring women onto the policy side of this campaign. Women represent a huge potential in the Middle East, and although the military has collaborated in talks very minimally with some tribal elders, largely small numbers of men, can you imagine what might happen if they brought a group of Afghani women into a conference room with Michael Mullen and his crew?