Women, girls & education

Man it’s been a busy month. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on my very first educational research paper. By research paper I don’t mean the ‘find 5 sources to support your ideas’ kind, but the ‘find a hole in all educational research, review 15+ sources scholarly studies, determine the problem and propose how you could address this in the educational research field’ kind. If you’re reading this and it’s something you’re good at…give me a shout. I think I could use a pep talk haha!

Image result for half the sky quotesIt just so happens that my free time has been consisted of reading and addressing women’s issues, so naturally when I had to choose a topic for this research paper my eyes turned to women in education.

Over the past month or so I had the privilege of reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof, and Sheryl WuDunn.

I’ve also been able to read and watch Girl Rising, a film and adapted book that follow the stories of young women and girls in communities around the world that limit their access to education based on their gender.

Also as part of a group I volunteer with, called the Open World Cause, we are working on developing a new project called What Will I Become. It’s been a really cool learning experience for me as I work with two other brilliant women in the cause that have amazing experiences abroad. We are working on surveys to talk with women in the Nepali community we’ll be visiting this summer to learn more about their education, the expectations laid upon them, and their dreams. In the end we hope to create a curriculum that can be used here in the United States within k-12 classrooms.

Talk about Girl Power.

This morning, after reading 10 studies about gender stereotyping and adequacy of curriculum relating to women representation, I was feeling EMPOWERED. If I’ve learned anything through these articles, the books, and the documentaries, it could be summed up in a few bullet points:

  • Educating girls changes communities, changes their futures, teaches them skills to support families, reduces number of pregnancies, reduces sex trafficking and helps break cycles of poverty.
  • Education in general addresses changes that need to be made in order to lower the maternal mortality rate.
  • Education informs communities of vital changes that need to be made in respect to gender based violence and traditions that are harmful to women’s health.
  • Education that addresses equality and importance of both women and men shapes the thinking of our students.
  • Educators must be aware of the materials being used, and choose literature and resources that show the importance of diversity to our students. That is just as much something they need to learn, as any other subject in school (if you ask me).

Though there are approximately 129468 other things I’ve learned, these are a few points that have stuck with me. This isn’t a blog post saying women are better than men, but saying that women should be valued for the amazing contributions they can make in this world. Men supporting women in communities around the world help make this viewpoint a reality in many cultures, hence the importance of educating men on these issues as well.

It’s always good to challenge your viewpoint and learn something new.

Follow the links about to watch or read some of the resources I’ve be reading/watching above. Enjoy these words, grab some wine, maybe your favorite women, and have some awesome discussions.

 

 

 

~Shelby

Ahimsa: Nonviolence

I’m a yoga teacher on the weekends. As part of my goals for this year, I wanted to take time to think through some basic principals of yoga, as well as take some workshops for continued education. In yoga training, I was introduced to the yoga sutras, yamas and niyamas. No, you don’t need to know what those things are to reap the benefits! Basically, they are guidelines for living a meaningful life. Who doesn’t want that?

This month, I’ve been focusing on something called Ahimsa. Ahimsa is respect for all living things and avoidance of violence toward others. Obviously we don’t want to go out and punch the next person that frustrates us (I’d be in trouble if that was allowed). The idea of nonviolence is to treat yourself, and others with respect. It is to understand that when you say harsh words, or are inconsiderate, you are not only hurting the person you’re speaking to, but also hurting yourself by hardening your heart.

Ahimsa means something different to everyone. To me, it means thinking kind thoughts about people around me, assuming the best, loving the unlovable, recycling and loving the earth God gave us, leaving a place better than you found it, spreading kindness and goodness, not speaking poorly behind someone’s back, being open to new adventures, and for me it even means not eating meat.

Do I actually do those things on a regular basis? Probably not. It is something I work towards and try to be very conscious of. Each week, I focused on new questions surrounding ahimsa from the book The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. The book has challenged me to mull over questions throughout the week. I did this every week for the month of January. Some of the questions include:

  • Practice courage by doing something you normally wouldn’t do. How does your relationship change with others when you courageously step into unknown territories?
  • Guard your balance. Think of the things you need and be ok with them. Do you base your decisions on what you need or what you THINK you need?
  • Are you a fixer? Do you run interference on other people’s lives? Discern the difference between help and support. Are you avoiding something in your own life by involving yourself in others?
  • Pretend you are complete. Don’t criticize or change. Do you need to offer yourself more grace or kindness?

Each of these questions were a good mental exercise in being kind/fair to myself as well as others. Sometimes my introverted-ness means I’m not courageous in stepping out to help others. Many times, I’m not kind to myself and often criticize the things I do. Those bad habits can be mentally taxing, soI enjoyed spending my last week of January loving the person I am. Now to make that a daily habit!

Learning something new can be wonderful. Next month I’ll be studying a different yama on my own time. If any of these questions were helpful try assigning them to your mental free time. How can you be more loving? Maybe it’s thinking kind things and sending warm vibes in the office, maybe it is taking a day of rest for yourself and family. Whatever it is, give it a try! The root of non-violence (ahimsa) is love after all.

Educated

This December I had the privilege of reading Educated by Tara Westover. I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. Thinking it would be more about the education aspect of Tara’s life than her life growing up without it, I was shocked and in awe of her courage as the story unfolds. Her memoir tells of her life growing up without education and how she breaks away from her eccentric family, going to college and eventually getting a PhD.

When we read books we often picture ourselves in the shoes of the main character. I found myself identifying with her desire to believe everything her family said growing up and struggling to realize their beliefs didn’t have to define her. Education, and I would throw in travel as well, opens your eyes from what your small world is to what it could be. Wrestling with changing your beliefs as an adult is an internal struggle that is almost impossible to verbalize.

Two quotes in her book struck me. First:

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”
Tara Westover, Educated

The people you love, the people you spend your time with, shape who you are. What do you do when you find yourself in an unexpected disagreement with a friend? How is it possible this family member can think so differently than me? Perhaps the hardest part of growing up is realizing that all the people you hold dear won’t always agree with you. People that you work with with and meet might not even LIKE you.

This can either be your greatest defeat, or greatest asset. The ability to love someone despite your differences is powerful. The same goes for yourself. You must still love and believe in yourself; you must be ok knowing that you might be different than the people you hold love.

Tara found that in her book. She found a way to respect her family without condoning their behavior. She has not cheated what she believes to be right, even though it meant losing people she thought would be there for her forever.

The second quote I loved was:

“We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell”
Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir

The truth is, no one in this world can know you like you do. Family, friends, colleagues know us for different reasons. So what happens when you start to grow or change? I like this quote because Tara describes something many of us have felt. Growing up, learning, and molding into the humans we want to be might mean changing what you previously agreed on with friends.

Just because someone has assigned you as a specific role in their head does not mean you are obligated to fulfill that role for them. Ultimately you must be confident in what you know, strong in how you do it, and have faith that you are on the right path. For me, that’s learning to listen and wait for God’s direction. For you, that might mean simply believing in yourself and not what others tell you is true.

As we move into 2019 I’m encouraging myself and others to be the best authentic version of themselves. What’s the point of people pleasing if it means losing yourself in the process? You can do this!

Happy New Year

~Shelby

P.S. Read Educated.  Grab a glass of wine. Enjoy!