We are at day two of the Women in the World Summit and, to put it lightly, I am ‘geeking out’ over all of the incredible women who have gathered to discuss a wide range of issues. And yet after today’s panel on ‘changing the minds of men in Afghanistan,’ I find myself instead thinking of the world’s men and boys.
So, what about the boys?
When we speak about the lack of educational opportunities for girls around the world, who do we assume is standing in the way? A common answer would be, well, men. Whether it be political or cultural leaders perpetuating patriarchal customs or one girl’s father who decides she’s to be married off at ten years old rather than be sent to school like her brothers, it is all too often men who are making decisions for women and girls.
In most places around the world, it’s the men who hold the power in their families, communities, and nations. So it is crucial that they are part of the solution to end gender inequity. And approximately four out of five males worldwide will eventually become fathers. This means that four out of five men can play a pivotal role in their children’s education and future, which is particularly important in a cultural context where girls often have little to no access to educational opportunities. A father or village elder deciding to forgo an early marriage and instead send a girl to school can change the course of her life and set a precedent within the community. To realize gender equity, we must treat men as a critical part of the solution, rather than the constant problem.
We have even come across some of these extraordinary men ourselves, while filming for 10×10 in Ethiopia. Richard Robbins and Alex Dionne of our production team recount stories of a brother who ultimately put his life in danger to stop his father from marrying off his sister young. He demanded she be allowed to go to school like he does. Andamlak, a father in northern Ethiopia who nearly went through with an arranged marriage for his daughter, now meets with other parents in his community on the importance of girls’education.
So there you have it: anyone can change the world, so let’s get everyone – men and women, boys and girls – involved. Changing the minds of men and boys is going to be a critical part of our campaign, and for all those who wish to see gender equity in the world.
Do you know any extraordinary men? I challenge you all to share the 10×10 campaign with them. Spread the word, post on their Facebook walls, and tweet away! Tell them that they too have a role in making this world a more gender-equitable place.