Parenting

Being female is still a liability

It's all over the news: a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan being shot in the head because of her position on education for girls. So what are we going to do about it?

Photo: Danish Khan/iStockphoto

As I sit at my desk I am angry. I have tears in my eyes. I am wondering how, in 2012, being a female can still be a liability.

According to The New York Times, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman, while on a bus full of young students in Pakistan yesterday. On purpose.

Her crime? Speaking out for the education of girls, something the Taliban is vehemently opposed to. Because, you know, girls learning stuff will lead to the destruction of civilization. Are people SERIOUSLY still buying into this ideology?

I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s culture, but cultures are meant to evolve with the times. Imagine being at work and someone saying, “Well we’ve always done it this way, so it HAS to be done this way.” Ridiculous! The business would ultimately fail! New ideas, new voices are key to progression and success.

I think most of us would agree that choosing who can and who cannot be educated, vote or have a voice is preposterous in any society. Extremism of any kind is destructive, as we saw with the shootings in Norway last year.

On one hand, I’m so proud that the world has girls like Malala, willing to risk their safety in order to argue for their rights and the rights of others. But as a parent, I am gutted to think of what Malala’s parents must be going through today as she struggles through her critical condition. I’m also thinking of the poor children on the bus who saw this happen. Can you imagine if your child was on that bus? This disgusting act was meant as a warning, to deter other families from trying to send their daughters to school. And frankly, it works. While I try to refuse to make choices based on fear, any mother’s children are worth too much to her to take on something so ugly and so frightful.

You might be thinking, “Phew! Thank goodness we live in Canada where this is not an issue.” And you’d be partially right — there is so much that we take for granted in Canada, each and every day. But there is still so much we — male or female — as HUMAN BEINGS have to do in the name of FAIRNESS. (Sorry I’m YELLY, but feminist issues get me WORKED UP!) Here in Toronto for example, three women were sexually assaulted while walking home over the past weekend. While we’ve come a long way, violence and fear are still being used to “keep us in our place.” Being a girl and having a vagina make us targets, make us feel unsafe, daily. While we can go to school and work and have choices here in North America, we are still vulnerable.

Ask yourself, is this the kind of world you want your sons and daughters to live in? I think we could all use a proper education in compassion and respect. I wish I had answers for how we could help these girls in Pakistan and other places where going to school is dangerous and being a female is horrible. But I don’t. All I can do is raise my own kids, the best I know how, and hope for the best. Other suggestions are welcome.

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