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Thanks in part to Nike, this video has seemingly brought my time here on Urgent Evoke full circle, which perhaps is only appropriate coming on a day that celebrates women and the circle of life. You see, the circle for me originated with the "following" of Greg Mortenson on twitter for the first Evoke mission on social innovation, and now it ends with having followed his mission on the empowerment of women.

Only this is no ending. Rather, a beginning.

A beginning that starts with my mom, who told me several years ago, "You need to read this." That this was Mortenson's first book Three Cups of Tea, which was then followed by her and my dad supporting his humanitarian work through the Central Asia Institute, sharing his new book Stones into Schools, and telling me most recently about his talk nearby in Chicago speaking in part on peace through education, an idea and truth that has profoundly affected me.

Of course this beginning starts even earlier with the support my parents have always shown for me as a writer and thinker in my own education. And how my mom has shown me the world of possibility that anyone is capable of, man or woman, and how my dad has demonstrated as a man how to treat all others rightfully and respectively.

It is sad, though, that this beginning starts with having to stress the value of girls. In this day and age, one would think it'd be a given; that something so inherent as one's value would need not be defended or stated. But that is not the case. Being a woman often carries with it a label of possession from the outer world; that a woman's value is solely tied into her relationship to a husband or child. So, to help break that illusion, here are some facts of a different perception:

As Mortenson has signaled, the agent of change in the world are girls. And this starts with seeing women for who they are, not who we think they are:

This beginning is met with real challenges, though. In sorting through the WomenWatch feed on the UN Gender Equality News site, 31 stories alone came up on gender issues in Afghanistan. Take this video as one example:

There is identifiably a need for change beyond just a vision. But how an end comes to visible and invisible opposing forces, I don't know--aside from patience, determination, and not standing down to the will of others. Joe Klein of Time magazine has written an insightful article on such expected and unexpected challenges, and as Greg Mortenson has pointed out, it is books not bombs (as well as having the community invested) that have done a better job of addressing those objections.

All in all, though, it is a beginning that I don't know where it'll end up. In my life and in the life of others. I would be interested in hearing from others below about the challenges your communities face and/or successes that have been had in relation to the education of women...

Views: 36

Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on May 10, 2010 at 6:01pm
Thanks for a beautiful post, Paul. Do you have plans for an Evoke connected to girls' education?
Comment by Buffy B on May 10, 2010 at 6:12pm
Paul, another winning post! I volunteer for http://www.bridgesforwoman.ca an employability program for woman who have suffered from abuse. The cutbacks in funding, tight purses from donators and competiton for grants is not stopping us but we've had to do more with less for a very long time and we're limping. Thankfully our on-line program is being dusted off and put back into action we had to pull it but got some seed money. It's a shame our program, and others like us even have to exist but the issues girls and woman face isn't going to go away anytime soon. However, there is a lot more awareness spreading now so I hope looking back on these years we see a vast improvement on the services available and the reduction of clients.

How lovely your parents taught you so well and continue to support you. I read 3 Cups of Tea this year ~ inspiring story!
Comment by PJE on May 10, 2010 at 6:29pm
Such a lot of important information here and put so warmly and generously. This is stuff we know intuitively so it is good to see it black and white.
Thank you
Comment by Paul Holze on May 10, 2010 at 8:09pm
Thank you Sarah, Buffy, and PJE. I liked your notion of how we know this stuff intuitively, PJE, and that's what connects us to what is being said.

In regard to your question, Sarah, I don't know yet. When I see and read about such issues as this, I feel something resonate deep within me. This feeling also comes, though, when hearing about others' rights, whether it be gay rights, civil rights, religious freedom, or just in general with anyone trying to stamp out someone else's voice, will, or power. Understanding what this all means to me is something I am still exploring.

Buffy, thanks for sharing. I was just reading about Bridges for Women, and that is tremendous there are now 21 Bridging programs in BC (but as you note, also a shame there is such a need for them)
Comment by Thys van der Veer on May 10, 2010 at 8:14pm
Mission "Empowering women" is a very important mission in this reality game. It should be part urgent evoke season 2 again. [@buffy and other evoke-agents What can be improved in that mission?]
To make empowerment of women possible, we need to discuss which societal and social innovations are necessary. It starts with awareness. Awareness has to be provoked. You have done that beautifully Paul, thank you.
Comment by Agbogun James Otejiri on May 11, 2010 at 3:21am
It is Ironical to know that there is a place on this planet where men are the victims in terms of deprivation from being educated. Females make up the larger percentage of students of higher institutions in south eastern Nigeria. Men are required to go into trade apprenticeship, while females go to school. It is so tense that you see posters in front of universities promoting boy child education. But the northern part of the country has a different story to tell.
Comment by Paul Holze on May 11, 2010 at 5:33pm
Interesting share from the both of you.

p.s. if any of you are further interested, I found a recent interview by Mortenson that does a nice job summarizing some of the approaches he's taken in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including misconceptions about working with the Taliban that often aren't heard elsewhere: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01152010/transcript2.html
Comment by Shakwei Mbindyo on May 12, 2010 at 8:33pm
I am an avid reader of all this Mortenson - he is inspiration personified!
Comment by Victor Udoewa on May 14, 2010 at 4:47pm
I wish I could offer more on your prompt, but in DC the issue is more of getting girls and women more into science education. There's a myth we fight that girls aren't good at math or science. That's the one we fight. But I've seen this issue all around the world. In fact, I put together a presentation on international education and gave at talk during the Evoke game. I don't remember if I wrote a blog post about it, but I've seen this issue of women and girls education in many developing and emerging countries.

I'd be interested in working on an EVOKation if you're considering proceeding in this direction. Thanks.
Comment by Paul Holze on May 14, 2010 at 6:13pm
Good share, Victor. I'll be in touch about the Evokation


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