Eunice Rukondo (Commonwealth Scholar, MA Digital Media, Culture and Education, University College London) shares what #EducatingGirls means to her, her family and her country
I come from Uganda, a developing country by all standards. I am an educated woman, largely because I was born to a mother who was lucky to have gotten an education. The women in my lineage before her were not so lucky. Whenever we talk about education, my mother reminds me to always be grateful to her mother (my grandmother) to whom we both owe the opportunity even though she never saw a day in a classroom herself.
“She swore her daughters would never suffer the same fate of failing to find their way in an area with road signs because they could not read,” explains my mother. So my grandmother fought her husband and all his clansmen and village mates to educate at least one of her three daughters and it was my mother that eventually stayed the course. And as a result, here I am today but not my nieces born to my other two aunts.
Most women who end up educated in my country share similar stories. Someone before them is so convinced about the value of educating women that they protect the future girl generations from the culture and traditions that prioritise men over women, grooming the boys for a better world and the girls to make the perfect wives for these men.
I know it seems unlikely, but the world where education for women is seen as a ploy to Westernise the rest of the world still exists out there. If you ask me, education for girls in my part of the world really begins with civic education of the community opinion leaders like parents and community local leaders about the necessity to educate a woman.
That is why I believe in empowering communication organs like the media, youth and local council leaderships with tertiary education opportunities for instance. These can be of influence and reach even more women and girls than will ever get to a classroom.
I have run and organised health camps for women that attracted men in equal droves and I know that people are hungry for knowledge. The odds against seeing most of them in classes for formal education are so many but there is still different ways girls can be educated. We can start with programmes and centres where they can get basic information and support, from where we can encourage them to educate their daughters too along with the boys. Utilise far reaching platforms like the media, tailored to the local people and their needs, to pass on informal education about health, nutrition, business and human rights, which eventually trickles into other SDGs. Basically, any kind of education will do.
For more sustainable long-term strategy, we can help girls in developing countries get an education by convincing the communities in which are born and raised that educating their daughters is a good thing. Use educated women from their own communities as brand ambassadors to make the achievements of educating women relatable.
It is a pity, but we are actually still that backward. Even worse is that those in position to help do not realise that we are still as backward so may be operating at a level we are only yet to reach.