Posts tagged education

It’s The Economy, Stupid

A slightly unexpected highlight this morning at the WOW Festival was this session on global finance and our economy. Rosie Boycott chaired a panel that included Emma Duncan (Deputy Editor of The Economist), Polly Toynbee (political journalist at The Guardian) and TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady. 

It was an unusual relief to hear four women speak knowledgeably about detailed economic history and theory, as well as propose suggestions for the future.

Many interesting points were made about the current goverment’s policies and whether they were likely to help our economy recover, in comparison to the tactics taken in a country like the United States. Inevitably there was also much discussion on the government’s cuts and how they are affecting women in particular.

One section of the session really interested me however. Emma Duncan noted that there are very worrying statistics on women’s financial literacy, or lack thereof. She wondered if this was partially because in households men traditionally were the holders of the money and the power to control what was done with it. They also, let’s not forget, carried the weighty responsibility for ensuring the financial health of the family and making sure everyone was provided for.

In this day and age though, is that really true? Many people my age and certainly younger grew up with women who worked and often also ensured bills were paid and groceries and clothes bought, at the best price. Is it as simple as a lack of role models?

Frances O’Grady commented that very often poor people and poor women are actually brilliant at managing to get by on the money they have. They simply don’t have enough of it. It’s certainly true that, as Polly Toynbee said, if you are low paid you are less likely to educate yourself on pensions, savings rates and which is the best ISA right now. As Emma Duncan went on to comment, it is vitally important that young people - not just young women - are educated on financial matters.

I did Business Studies at school for the Irish Junior Certificate (the first year that the Junior Cert was taken). It incorporated incredibly useful sections on household budgeting, balancing chequebooks (times have obviously moved on) and understanding banking and different types of accounts. However, it wasn’t enough and as I discontinued Business Studies after the Junior Cert. that was the end of my education on the subject.

Education in financial matters, as in so many other aspects of young girls’ lives, is the biggest factor that will contribute to a healthy relationship with money later on. Control over money will give you power over your own destiny - as anyone who has given up work to look after children and then wants to leave a marriage will tell you. Knowing how to use what you have to get the best out of a little cash, or plan for the future on a larger salary comes from being confident in making decisions and this comes from education.

This post was cross-posted on the Women of the World blog

Sky High fundraiser

I’m am so excited to announce the launch of Sky High - a fundraising evening for two fantastic charities. 

Earlier this year I read the amazing book Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It inspired me in so many ways, not least in starting this blog  I consider it a must read, and fortunately one of my friends took up the challenge. She in turn has also been spurred into action and together with a few friends we’re organising an indiepop club night to raise funds for some of the charities who address the issues raised in the book.

First things first, Sky High will be held on 27th January 2012 at the Dogstar in Brixton (389 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LQ). Doors open at 8pm and Kerry Collins from the Frame nights in Edinburgh is DJ-ing for us. Tickets are available on Eventbrite and cost £6 plus Eventbrite’s fee.

All proceeds on the night will be shared between two charities.

The first is Camfed who use a community-based approach to identify girls in most need of an education and help support them in getting it. Their website provides great detail on the kind of work they do and I encourage you to check it out. 

When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family.

The second charity is The Orchid Project  who take a grassroots approach to ending Female Genital Cutting (FGC). They work to end the silence and taboo around FGC and raise awareness of groups like Tostan who they are paired with, and are part of a community-based movement to end the practice. 

There are many debates about which terminology to use. “Cutting” seems less of a judgemental phrase to us than “mutilation” bearing in mind the communities we wish to work with. For the Orchid Project, the important thing is not to get diverted too much into a debate about language, but keep working with everyone to end it!

For those of you based in London I really hope you can all come along and dance around to some old school and new school indiepop tunes. For those who can’t make it we’ll be setting up a page which will allow people to still make a donation. Please spread the word and help us raise some cash for two incredibly deserving charities. 

Tickets here available now

*update 8th Dec. 

We also have an event page on the Camfed UK website so if you can’t make it on the night please consider donating directly to them instead.

Girl Effect Blogging Campaign

I’ve blogged about this fantastic campaign before but I’ll be doing so again on 4th October as part of the Girl Effect blogging Campaign. So this is a call to all other bloggers - to learn more click here and see how you can get involved. 

Girl Effect

Michelle Obama and the education of girls

I’m going to post these links with little comment as Michelle Obama can speak on it far better than I can.

Just a brief note to say that I spent two days volunteering at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in 2009, a few months after Michelle Obama’s first visit to the school The girls I met there were so impressed by her words and were genuinely inspired by her visit and her message - that education and hard work are important and that being smart is a good thing.

AP photo from EGA School

My message to the young women of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School by Michelle Obama.

Edited version is on The Guardian: http://gu.com/p/2pbjh

The full text, including the Q&A is on the White House press website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/25/remarks-first-lady-event-elizabeth-garrett-anderson-students

Domestic violence and slut-shaming

Everyone once in a while, I read a news story that makes me genuinely sad. Sunday was one of those days as I read on The Guardian site that

teenage girls between 16 and 19 are now the group most at risk of domestic violence, closely followed by girls aged 20-24 – all victims of a new generation of abusers who are themselves in their teens and early twenties.

It’s hard to believe that not only is intimate partner violence still happening in our society but that it’s actually getting worse. We tend to think of our society (ie Western society) as getting better, progressing and becoming more ‘equal’. It stuns me to think that it’s potentially regressing.

There’s so much food for thought in this piece (and I’ll be posting more on the topic) but one thing that springs to mind is the prevalence of ‘slut-shaming’ in these young people’s lives. The girls in the article speak about being called names like ‘slut’, ‘sket’ and ‘slag’ on a daily basis. For these girls how they are perceived in their peer group is closely tied in with their sexuality. The boys they socialise and have relationships with seem to view them as possessions until they no longer have a use for them. When the relationship ends ‘sket’ sites spring up with compromising photos of the girls and they are subsequently called names in school - not just by the boys but by other girls. This kind of slut-shaming is often talked about on feminist sites as a tool used to control girls and women. The idea that only a virginal girl has any worth is still pretty pervasive in our society.

While this example sounds extreme it’s not just something that happens to girls. It happens when women run for public office or put themselves in the public eye. It particularly happens when women accuse men of rape or assault. While legally a woman’s sexual past cannot be brought into the courtroom, it can be raised during initial questioning and can lead prosecutors to decide not to proceed with a case. It can also do an awful lot to discredit a victim publicly and in their community, as happened in the Listowel case, even though the man in question had been tried and convicted of her assault. Similarly, the Swedish women who accused Julian Assange found their personal profiles and online presence publicly trawled for evidence of sexual behaviour.

One of the most blatant examples of this I’ve seen lately has been in the case of an 11 year-old girl who was gang-raped in Texas. 18 young men and boys were arrested and the town was horrified but as the New York Times reported, not because it had happened but that the ‘boys would have to live with this the rest of their lives’. They also took pains to interview local people who pointed out that the girl often wore clothes and make-up appropriate for a woman in her 20s - she looked like a slut, so they treated her like one. In other words she was asking for it,. All of this was done to discredit her story and destroy her credibility.

It’s such a confusing message to be giving young girls. They’re constantly told that they need to be beautiful, be thin and be judged on their appearance. In other words, look sexually available. However, daring to act on this behaviour and express sexual desire or even have sexual experience marks them out as sluts and if they’re no longer required for a particular boy/man’s use, then they’re publicly shamed. It marks them as lesser, and worthless and leaves them increasingly vulnerable to controlling partners and self-esteem problems. No girl wants to be the one pointed out and shamed, so they join in themselves calling each other names and engaging in bullying behaviour.

It’s an attitude that I’m shocked and saddened to see is so pervasive in the minds and relationships of young people in the UK, but in some ways it’s no surprise  as the adults in their lives and the media they’re exposed to continue to reinforce it so consistently. It’s up to us to act better and pass on the good example.