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.

 

Emma Watson Wins All Day, Every Day

EmmaWatsonUN

By Lena Shareef, #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/

I have a huge friend crush on Emma Watson. Meaning I wish we were friends in real life, the kind who hang out all the time and get brunch together. I felt even stronger about this after watching the speech she gave at the United Nations earlier this week on the dire need for gender equality.

If you missed her speech, be sure to watch it here:

The topics she brought up are very close to my heart. Especially when she spoke about the negative reactions she sees every time the word, “feminist” is uttered anywhere. The launch of the He for She campaign couldn’t have come at a better time. I, like Emma, am also constantly having to explain that feminism does not = man hating. In fact, feminism works to promote the rights of men AND women. But if we’re going to win this fight against sexual violence, sexual harrassment, discrimination, inequality, then we need everyone to participate.

As the He for She website states, “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue.”

When we first started #GIRLWITHABOOK, Olivia and I noticed right away that we weren’t receiving as many photos from boys or men. Sure, there were great pictures from dads with their daughters or mothers with their young boys, but we only got a handful of photos from young men standing on their own with a book in their hands. Even if I specifically asked, the response I kept getting from my male friends and family was, “Oh but you’re doing this for girls. There’s no point in me posting a picture.” But there is! It makes just as big of an impact if not more for people to see a young man making a stand for women’s rights and girls’ education.

That’s why I’m loving everything about the He for She campaign. Now, finally, there’s an active effort being made to include boys and men in our fight for gender equality. Men, this is your call to action. Stand with us.

Dreams From My Grandmother

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/

Sometimes I wonder why I feel so strongly about advocating for girls’ education. I know the statistics backwards and forwards. I can recite horrific data on child marriage, literacy rates, primary school enrollment broken down by gender, in my sleep. But as much as I’m a numbers nerd, data doesn’t make people “tick.”

I don’t have to look far for my inspiration, for I come from a line of female education fighters.

My grandmother Rose was born in 1934 on a tiny island, the most western point of Europe. She was the 14th child born to her 42 year old mother and 70-something year old father, though the 12th and 13th children both died in infancy. Both were also named Rose. When he went to get her baptized in the neighboring town, my great-grandfather had forgotten to ask my great-grandmother what to name my grandmother. Not wanting to walk all the way home, he had her baptized Rose, just as the other two babies before her, hoping that she too would “go to be with God” instead of growing up poor on the island. That’s the nice way of putting it. But my grandmother is a fighter and she was there to stay.

We are from an island called Flores, flowers in Portuguese. A rural island, then neglected by a dictatorial government, with little to no opportunity to move up in life without leaving the island. My grandma lost her dad at 3 months, her mother just before her 13th birthday. She didn’t own a pair of shoes until she was 10, but she dreamed of going to college. She would pour over catalogues showing the prestigious Coimbra University with their students milling about campus, wearing the traditional capes. My grandma dreamed of getting to wear that cape. She dreamed of college.

She completed the 5th grade, dreaming to continue on, but was unable to.

At 16 she married my grandfather, at 17 she immigrated to the US.

She lied about her age to get a job. Taught herself English by listening to the radio.

She lied about her age again to attend high school, but after a few magical years of learning (and joining the basketball and trampoline teams), she was pregnant with my uncle at the age of 22 and left school.

My mom was born when she was 26, and at the age of 30 my grandma was widowed when a log-mill accident killed my grandfather.

My grandmother went on to single-handedly put both of her kids through college, my uncle through law school too.

I’ve heard of nothing more from my grandmother than the importance of getting an education. She wasn’t able to get the degrees she dreamed of, but she transferred those dreams into her children and grandchildren. Thanks to my grandma, my mom and uncle were the first in our extended family (36 cousins in their generation alone) to graduate from college. In May of this year, I was her first grandchild to graduate from college. She always tells me that in my dreams for learning and travel I’m “doing exactly what [she] would be doing if [she] was my age.”

Olivia and her grandmother Rose, May 2014

Olivia and her grandmother Rose, May 2014

I’m thankful to have had such a strong woman advocating for my education in my corner, and I feel compelled to continue to direct that energy towards other girls who need someone rooting for them in their corner. This blog is a method of that encouragement, but it’s also a wake up call, a gentle but persistent nudge to those who had someone in their corner, to keep learning, to keep questioning, to keep working towards a world where all girls claim education as their right.

If you share in this hope of a world where education access is taken for granted by all, please vote daily for #GIRLWITHABOOK’s expedition proposal in National Geographic’s Expedition Granted competition. When you vote, you stand up for girls and education world-wide.