International Women’s Day 2015

This is thhttp://www.internationalwomensday.come first year, in a very long time, that I have not attended any International Women’s Day (IWD) events as none, as far as I am aware, are being held where I currently live. My contribution this year to IWD has been to include the day as part of my English language lessons, providing a reading piece, vocabulary list and encouraging discussion as it falls in line with the our ESL topics.

The class discussions, where the majority of students have been women in their early to mid-twenties, have been interesting and thought provoking because, although some had heard of IWD, none of them were aware of the history or knew much about why this day is so significant.

In 1910 women from a number of different countries were attending a conference on Copenhagen, Denmark at which Carla Zetkin, a German delegate, made the suggestion that an annual day should be set to mark the struggle for women’s rights. Obviously other attendees thought this was a great idea and so IWD was born.

Why the 8th March? Well, this was the day of the very first protest March was held in New York in 1857 to demonstrate against the horrific conditions faced by those women who worked in the garment and textile industry.

Over the ensuing years IWD has grown to become a movement that has highlighted so many concerns that affect women. Issues have included gender equality, women’s health issues, violence against women, disarmament and education to name but a few. Check our further details here on the UN page for 2015 as there’s some great reading there.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of IWD events ranging from breakfasts, lunches, dinners and public marches. I’ve always learnt something each time I listened to a speaker at the each of the events and been grateful for the wisdom they have shared. A collaboration of women is a most powerful thing.

Clearly the key to improving the world in which we live comes down to education, not just for women but for everyone, because it is only through education (both formal and informal) that we can begin to understand that there is more than just our own little world. Through education the world is opened up, we become aware of alternate ways of living and thinking. We learn about collaboration, we learn about respect and we learn about those who have gone before us, often making sacrifices, to pave the way for future generations.

We should never underestimate the power of the individual to make a difference and women joining together are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

Michelle

Education – a key to change

EductionThe rights of the individual, the topic of our informal conversation class last night, provided for a stimulating conversation. We always begin our informal sessions with one of the students, introducing the area they’d like to talk about, and as this is a vast topic the scope is enormous, with the choice being very much up to the speaker as to which aspect of a topic they choose to explore.

As this is a C1 level class, it means there is a high degree of fluency, so the evening is always enjoyable and there is no predicting which way the conversation might flow or which areas we may segue into. The experience is highly authentic for all concerned including me.

Our lively discussion kicked off with genital mutilation of females and somehow or other managed to, very naturally, finish with the right of individuals to exercise their votes at local and national elections. How did we end up here? Well, it all came down to the our discussion that both these areas need individuals to be educated in order to stop a barbaric practice (genital mutilation) and the importance of voters exercising their right to vote in order to ensure the systems in our countries do not fail those who need them.

If we do not provide access to education for everyone, then there is little chance for improvement. Without education individuals are left in a position of ignorance, it is not their fault that they are unable to make an informed decision.

Education takes many forms, formal and informal including life experience. What is clear is that it is only through education that we evolved and therefore it must be the fundamental right of every individual to receive a basic education in their formative years. Easier said than done, but if each of us, as individuals, does our own little bit towards ensuring this is happening, the world will surely but slowly change.

I am very fortunate to have received an excellent education, not just formal but also in the university of life, and as I get older I appreciate this even more and realise that this is the most wonderful gift that an individual can ever receive. It is a gift that cannot be taken away and I thank my parents for the sacrifices they made to ensure that I received this wonderful gift.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Michelle