DROP BOOKS NOT BOMBS

By Olivia Curl, #GIRLWITHABOOK co-founder

This post is part of #GIRLWITHABOOK’s Expedition Granted Series. Please vote for our expedition proposal every day through 9/29 and spread the word! When you vote you’re standing up for girls and education world-wide. 

Vote Here: http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/girlwithabook/

Okay, perhaps it’s not that simple. I majored in International Studies with concentrations in Global Security and the Middle East, and my thesis was a National Intelligence Estimate on Syria’s influence regarding Jordanian stability. I’m no cupcake when it comes to the Middle East and conflict, so please don’t try to tell to me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know more than your average Joann (and Joe, for that matter). However, I graduated four months ago, and I’m quite enjoying not having to think about (and get graded on) war every day. I’m not here to talk about ISIS (news flash: they suck) or the highly complicated confluence of events and choices (many of which were at the discretion of the US) that led to the current crisis in Syria and Iraq.

Instead we’re going to talk about a grand hypothetical: What if the United States invested in education, at home and internationally, at the same rate that the government private corporations invested in the military/defense/intelligence apparatus? Education has one of the highest ROI’s of any social investment. Educating girls especially increases social dividends. And if you’re an economics person, consider this: for every 10 percent increase in the number of educated girls, GDP increases by 3 percent. Three percent is not small potatoes when you’re talking GDP.

US foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of US GDP. It’s a tiny fraction that has the potential to do a lot of good world-wide, and small increases in this spending has the potential to increase dividends around the world, strengthen communities, and, you know, stop wars and stuff. It would be dandy if folks could stop complaining that we spend too much on foreign aid. We don’t spend enough. 

Consider this: what if investing in education was a cornerstone of national security policy? What if supporting communities in increasing education access, especially for girls, was taken seriously by military commanders? What if the old boys’ clubs of the US government advocated relentlessly for universal primary education?

Make that kind of investment consistently for the next 10 years, I’d argue that dropping bombs won’t need to be a consideration nearly as often 20 years from now. Isn’t that worth it?

If you agree that education, especially for girls, is a worthwhile investment, vote for #GIRLWITHABOOK to win National Geographic’s Expedition Granted competition.

 

(Woman on Woman) Crime Compromises Us All

A militant attack in Southwest Pakistan claimed the lives of at least 25 last Saturday, mostly students and nurses, at Sardar Bahadur Khan University, Baluchistan’s only all-female university. A suicide bomber hid on a bus at the end of the day that was to transport students back to a mostly Shi’a Hazara neighborhood before detonating and killing 14 and injuring many many more. Victims were taken to the university’s nearby hospital, where militants stormed the emergency room and a second suicide bomber detonated killing an additional 11 people while the militants indiscriminately opened-fire.

via tribune.com.pk

via tribune.com.pk

This is a disturbing view of the violence and anti-girl fervor that too many female students face around the world. After all, how often do we hear about all-male schools getting shut down, receiving bomb-threats, or getting blown-up because the school serves male students? That’s right. We don’t.

That’s because male education (while important, of course– ALL children have a right to an education and should be able to access it safely) is not threatening to the status quo. Patriarchy reproduces patriarchy, and increasingly, educated, thinking, breathing women showing some spark and life-blood are seen as absolutely terrifying to male-dominated extremist groups trying to maintain their power.

What’s particularly disturbing about the attack in Quetta, on top of the already heinous carnage and loss of life, promising young female lives I might add, is that the attack on the bus was carried out by a female suicide bomber.

Yes. A woman boarded a bus full of other female students, and then detonated on behalf of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Lashkar-e-Jhangri terrorist group.

Now. Women who commit acts of violence are an interesting topic, and one that is frequently exploited by the media to sensationalize and objectify women, neglecting to acknowledge the agency of these women as they make decisions and commit to courses of action. Violent women are often sexualized, identified as angry mothers/wives seeking revenge for their husband’s and/or sons’ deaths, or classified as monsters, mentally unstable or insane women who cannot be held responsible for their actions. Or some combination of the above list. (If you want to read more on the topic of violent women, I highly recommend Mothers, Monsters, Whores by Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry).

We’re not going to do that here. We’re not going to sexualize this woman. We’re not going to talk about any men who may be in her life. We’re not going to assume that she was coerced into this action. We’re not going to diagnose her as insane. Because women can and do make decisions and act upon them. After all, women are people.

What we will say is that we are disgusted over the attack, and greatly saddened by it as yet another component in an ever-growing web of resistent women face as they try to access an education. Further saddening is that it was a woman who attacked other women. There is too much difficulty in the world for women without women compromising each others’ future. We don’t need to think or act alike. We shouldn’t be clones of each other or claim that there is only one way to be a woman, a feminist. But I think we can agree that supporting each other to make decisions about our own lives, and being able to access the tools to make those decisions (i.e. education) is something we should all strive to do.