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Halie Pepich

English 1102

Advocating Womens Right for Education in the Middle East


Picture young girls ages 16 to 18 in school taking their final exams before graduation.
The school they go to is one of the few schools around thats open and not boarded up. Despite
the disadvantage they have due to the constant fear of terrorist attacks, they continue to stay
determined and concentrated. Yet suddenly their concentration was broken by men dressed in
military clothing that tell them they were going to take them to safety. They soon become
horrified to find out that they have just been kidnaped by a terrorist group. This may seem like a
nightmare but it was real for 18-year-old Deborah Sanya who said I thought it was the end of
my life, (referring to the kidnaping) (Okeowo). In the Middle East this happens often. The
kidnapped girls were both Christian and Muslim; their only offense, it seems, was attending
school (Okeowo). In many countries in the Middle East women dont receive a proper
education because they are seen as unimportant or that its a sin for women to get an education.
In this paper I plan to give readers an idea of why the United States should get involved in
advocating womens education in the Middle East.
Many may say that the example I provided above is just one of few so why is it so
important? Why should readers care? Actually that is where many are wrong. One case that has
seen the most attention is the story of Malala. She is known as the girl who was shot for going to
school. On October 9 ,2012 Malala Yousafzai who was 15 years old at the time when she was
shot in the head by Taliban gunmen - her crime, to have spoken up for the right of girls to be
educated ( Husain). It is here that it shows with intense honor on how those in the middle east
look at educating women. It is considered a crime above all others. Malala
Malala s story took to social media quickly. She stood up for herself despite the threats and the
event that had accrued she said I wanted to speak up for my rights," she says. "And also I didn't

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English 1102

want my future to be just sitting in a room and be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking
and giving birth to children. I didn't want to see my life in that way"(Husian). She continued to
advocate for womens rights durning and after recovery. He stories empowered many to continue
to get educations and she is an extreme success story of what women can do for the world. Her
words and actions have led to her not only empowering young women like her but also have
resulted in her wining many awards. This list included National Youth Peace Prize 2011, Sitarae-Shujaat, Pakistans third-highest civilian bravery award 2012, Foreign Policy magazine top 100
global thinker 2012, and along with many others. Her story shows how important and truly
powerful womens education can be.
Malalas story really shows how important the issue of womens education is. She made a
huge push for womens right to a proper education. Some may think by now that womens right
to education is important but how many women really do not receive an education? In general,
there is a lag in womens participation in higher education throughout the Middle East and North
Africa, though the gender gap has closed dramatically in recent years. Yemen appears to be the
furthest behind of the Arab countries in granting women access to higher education. The country
had 47,000 male university students and 15,000 female students in 2011, according to the latest
statistics available. Only elite families send their daughters to schools and universities says
Wahiba Faraa, a Yemeni politician who was also the countrys first female minister of state for
human rights in 2001 (ICEF Monitor). This show that even though women have made progress
through the years, men still receive the majority of the education in the Middle East. This also
shows that not enough is being done to reach equal opportunity for women in education. A
report by the Population Reference Bureau on the Middle East and North Africa region sheds
light on the challenges that women face in the region. Two key factors highlighted in the report

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English 1102

was the MENA culture and the oil based economy. The report shows a clear gender biased
toward men in the region (. The Borgen Project) This shows how the countries in the Middle
East have a favor for men over women. This does seem a lot like how gender roles were in the
past in the United States.
Though the middle east and the United States seem completely different there is at least
one key similarity better them. They both at one time or another had a bias for one gender. For
example, gender role for women were stay at home moms and did not have much freedom. They
were more so property then actually people. It was not until June 23, 1972 when the President
signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, into law that women we not able to
receive a higher education beyond high school. This was a huge step for womens education and
has lead them to do so many great things. Larry Summers, when he was chief economist at the
World Bank, once said that, It may well be that the highest return on investment in the
developing world is in girls education (WuDunn). The reason this is so is because women are
more productive in the work force. So may think otherwise and according to my research that I
did, 64 percent of participants believed that men were more productive then women. This may be
because of the glass celling but Despite barriers to workplace equality--such as hiring, pay, and
promotion bias--Gallup found a small but statistically significant difference: 33 percent of
women feel actively engaged, versus 28 percent of men (Fondus). This shows that women are
more engaged and therefore more productive in work. This is one of the many significant
successes that educating women have had. The push for womens rights all started with
educating woman which allowed them to obtained roles in the work force. Going back to the bias
we have seen in the past we can clearly see that things can change and is why the United States
should focus on womans education by helping the countries in the Middle East break down the

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bias barrier which can be done through the use of examples that we have used in the past. It may
be surprising that In the report, women were asked if they could only afford to send one child to
a university and they had a son and a daughter who would it be. An overwhelming majority of
the women said they would pay for their son over their daughter to go to school. The statistics
were shocking with 39 percent in favor of the son going on to higher education and only 8
percent in favor of the daughters (Cross). While in a survey I conducted, when asked the same
question 64 percent said girls over boys and the gender of which the participants where were half
and half. This shows that the bias can be broken down and there is hope for the realization of the
penitential women have.
Overall women in the Middle East face many horrifying struggles to receive their much
needed education. The United States has seen the same example of gender bias in the past which
was overcome which shows that the United States is capable of helping the Middle East with
their current problem. By breaking down the bias that people in the Middle East have, women
will be able to gain their education without fear but certainly not without any less determination
then before. Women may seem week to some but we are much stronger than some may thing and
are capable of doing whatever we set our minds to.