"Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right."
It is hard to believe that in the twenty first century these are the words of a teenage girl. But they are, these are the words of Malala Yosafzai, a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the head for speaking out and fighting for the right of young women to get an education. All around the world, young girls and women still lack the basic rights of freedom, education, and equality. But like Malala, they know that the conflict, violence, and poverty will end when the oppression of women does, and they are fighting to put an end to it.
In Ascent of Women, Sally Armstrong introduces readers to the numerous women around the world who are ushering in the revolution that will change this world. From Canada to Afghanistan, Kenya to Venezuela and throughout the rest of the world, women are standing up and leading the fight for equality.
This book introduces readers to many inspiring women. It can be difficult for those of us living with the freedom to make our own life choices to understand what daily life is like for other women in the world but this book shows us how important it is that we don't give up the fight until we are all experiencing freedom. Every day women around the world face rape, domestic violence, illiteracy, polygamy, genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, honour killings, and more that keep them from their full potential. And yet, when women are able to reach their full potential, everyone around them is able to lead a fuller life.
Armstrong also shows us how successful women are at changing the world when we stand up and speak out. In Kenya, 160 girls between the ages of three and seventeen are suing the government because it failed to protect them from being raped. In Senegal, a group of ten year old girls took their protests to the national stage to demand an end to forced child marriage, which led to a change in national law. In Afghanistan, young women are forming organizations to challenge old customs and educate both men and women on what religious teachings really say about women's rights. In Canada, grandmothers are raising millions of dollars to support grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who are caring for their grandchildren that lost their parents to the AIDS pandemic. In Egypt, women flooded Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring to bring revolution to their country, fighting for freedom and justice.
This book is so hard to put down. It's both shocking and inspiring to see the challenges women around the world face and what they are doing to make things right. We often hear proverbs and sound quotes saying that the best way to change this world for the better is to empower women and this book shows just how true it is. As Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, states: "When you invest in women and girls, it's the best way to break cycles of poverty. Poor states aren't necessarily failed states. But it's difficult to emerge as a peaceful functioning stable country when living in dire straits of poverty." (p.170)
This is important reading for all women, to learn and to be inspired. But also, this is important reading for men. Everyone needs to see what can be achieved when women lead the way.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation.