Education remains the best predictor of women’s advancement in our world today

One of my many roles in my 25 year career as an academic librarian, was being chosen as the United Nations Librarian at both the University of Utah and University of Colorado at Boulder at the beginning of my career. I enjoyed this role because I was raised by parents who wholeheartedly believed that girls need a good education to impact the world in any meaningful way, and the United Nations has always supported that goal financially. As a UN librarian I learned that education was the best predictor of whether women could advance in less developed countries.

malalaAsk the famous freedom fighter Malala Yousafzai. As a young girl, Ms.Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for her non-traditional behavior, but survived and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize:

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Little did I know then that I was also talking about some rural pockets of poverty and ignorance in our own country.

tara westoverThis week I read a POWERFUL memoir of a woman who advanced from no early schooling until age 17, to a PhD from Cambridge University in the UK. By writing EDUCATED: A Memoir, about her extreme battle to educate herself and in that way find her true Self, Tara Westover is educating the rest of us in how hard some girls and women must fight to simply NOT follow in their mother’s footsteps.

Tara learned from a very early age that she would have to fight for everything she would ever have, first with her father and then with her older brother. Growing up in a violent and severe fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho she eventually discovered:

“Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.” pg. 197

The battles Ms. Westover fought for her own education, freedom and independence nearly killed her a number of times, yes in this very country of ours. The extreme courage and intelligence she expresses so well in this memoir is an inspiration to all worldwide who strive everyday to simply be themselves and breathe free.

There are so many brilliant ideas and lines in this memoir! To paraphrase just one:

Guilt is never about them. It is fear of your own wretchedness…

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