Monday, 12 May 2014

It's different for girls?

Before I worked in a single sex school I was aware that there were issues getting girls into STEM subjects, and I was aware there were issues in the world where girls didn't get as good an education as boys. But it wasn't something on my agenda. I am female, yet I did STEM subjects, I wasn't put off by being the only girl in my physics class and surely charities will work with those countries where girls don't get an education and help them. I did have the attitude "I did it, you can do it too".

However, my mind and attitude is slowly changing. I think that the women of the world do need to be empowered and supported.

The eye opening started with international day of the girl child. A relative of a girl who goes to the school I teach in pointed it out to the Headmistress and I got the girls to complete the sentence "with an education I can..." and took photographs of their statements in October 2012. Some good, some predictable, some daft, but some inspiring. Last year we did a walk at lunch time. Inspired by this I did some research into the importance of girls' education. Now I feel strongly that it is about more than *just* inequality but about better lives for people in poor communities, and educating women is vital to the improvement of the world we live in. That only 30% of all girls are enrolled in secondary school is a shocking statistic.

I teach some Nigerian girls, and I asked one about the girls who have been kidnapped. It wasn't surprising really to see the interest from the other students about the topic, that a group would want to stop girls being educated was strange to them, but not unheard of, that they would go to such extremes was difficult for us all to grasp. Although the Nigerian student did add a political dimension to the story as there are elections in Nigeria next year and undermining the current president seems to also play a part.

In January I went to a session about gender imbalances between girls and boys in certain A-level subjects. The IoP report is here: The statistics here are eye opening, and not just for physics, for English too. Why should that subject be so female dominated? I am ashamed that I did think during the session "what can I do, I work in a girls school and girls schools already go some way to addressing gender imbalances, so I don't have to worry", however as the statistic came forward I realised everyone must re-evaluate the way they work with girls (and boys) and the messages they get across about what is appropriate and inappropriate as an academic or career path for them.

I am more aware of the "everyday sexism" that we encounter and we inadvertently spread now than I have ever been, and so I feel that now is the time in my life and career to take a more active stand to support the education and opportunities of girls. The question is how? I suppose the first thing is to get my hand in my pocket and support a charity that gives girls the opportunity for an education:

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