“Equal education is the antecedent to equal rights,” said Tashi Sherpa, a senior at Park School.
Tashi is a member of Girls Education Collaborative’s Student Committee, which is dedicated to advocating for women’s rights globally and “believes in the ripple effect of educating and empowering girls.”
On Sept. 20, actress Emma Watson, the goodwill ambassador for U.N. Women, gave a speech at the United Nations on gender inequality and feminism. The word “feminism” is one that sometimes sparks controversy and makes some people uncomfortable.
Watson proudly and confidently calls herself a feminist in her speech, explaining that “feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
According to Watson, men, like women, also are “imprisoned by gender stereotypes,” and it is only through men and women working together that the world can achieve gender equality. Watson’s speech kicked off the HeForShe initiative, which invites men and boys to become active in making the world equal for both genders.
The HeForShe website (www.heforshe.org/) states that “gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue.”
On Tuesday in Kleinhans Music Hall, Nicholas Kristof will be speaking about his new book, “A Path Appears.” This two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author was invited by Girls Education Collaborative, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create educational opportunities for girls in developing countries.
Kristof is a prime example of a man who is an active spokesman for women’s rights and gender equality. The co-author of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” and “A Path Appears,” Kristof is a New York Times columnist who has traveled throughout the world, bringing attention to women’s rights issues – in particular, sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality.
“GEC is so honored to have (Kristof) come to Buffalo in order to support our critical work,” said Anne Wadsworth, executive director of Girls Education Collaborative.
GEC is sponsoring a group of 13 girls from six Buffalo high schools to take an active part in spreading the word to their peers about Kristof’s talk at Kleinhans. These girls created the GEC Student Committee, and together they “believe that, as girls who have the access to quality education, it is (their) responsibility to speak out against the gender inequality that is prevalent in education as well as the global community.”
The girls – from City Honors, Park School, Nichols, Buffalo Seminary, Tapestry Charter School and Hutchinson Central Technical High School – were helping to spread the word about Kristof’s appearance at their schools and on social media via Twitter (@GECstuco).
GEC has made available a limited amount of free tickets for students who would like to attend. The names of the students will be put into a lottery for free tickets.
Morgan Aiken, a senior at Buffalo Seminary, sees education for girls as a way to bring gender equality in leadership.
“Global access to a quality education for all girls means the world as a collective effort has come one step closer to making women equal not only in the sphere of academics, but in leadership.”
Another member of the GEC Student Committee, Skylar Cerbone, a junior at City Honors, said, “I would like to be a part of the fight to end injustice against women and girls in my lifetime. Educating girls in developing countries is a critical part of this goal.”
Alex Castiglia, a senior at Nichols, believes that “girls’ education is important because every woman should have the right to the same opportunities as men. It is both important and necessary for our global humanity.”
So are these girls feminists? You’d have to ask them. But does it really matter? “If you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important,” Watson said in her U.N. speech. “It’s the idea and the ambition behind it.”
As they declare in their mission statement, the GEC Student Committee is simply “girls helping girls.”
“We need to provide education for girls to share the perspectives of those who have been oppressed by economic disadvantages,” said Ana Sofia Stieglitz, a junior at Tapestry Charter School. “The voice of a girl speaking her opinion and wisdom is worthy of being heard by all.”
For more information, visit www.girlsedcollaborative.org. All proceeds from the Kristof event will be used by GEC to continue building a school for girls in Kitenga, Tanzania.
Abigail Hopkins is a junior at Buffalo Seminary.