While rereading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Estelle Freedman’s The Essential Feminist Reader, and Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala, I have realized the true necessity and value of receiving an education. So many women in so many places around the world have written, spoken, and rallied for equal rights, even in the early 1400’s! Christine de Pizan used her education and voice to write against men’s subjugation of women in the Bible during the Renaissance period; she realized that her voice as a woman and a writer, paired with the education she received would lead her closer to defending her religious and educational rights as a woman.
Three hundred and ninety-two years later, Mary Wollstonecraft encourages women to
“endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body” (Freedman 27).
Wollstonecraft later explains in her article that altering the standards of education for women can (and will) encourage young, female students and workers to achieve this goal. However, there is a much more priceless gift that women receive while working on expanding their education and worldview.
Through education, women establish agency.
Agency is the ability for an individual to act in a thoughtful and mature way in various situations, especially stressful ones. We improve our agency when we undergo harsh situations like job cuts, discrimination, relationship problems, and losing a family member we hold dear. We buffer our agency as we take courses like Feminist Theory, Style, Grammar, and more to hone our use of language so we can advocate our rights and ideas in a clear and efficient manner. When we explain the struggles women have faced in the past several hundred years to open ears and closed hearts we are using agency to spread the goal of equality for men and women on all fronts. Improved agency steadies our minds and our voices, and we have our education to thank for that.
Unfortunately, there are countries where a woman’s right to education is diminished or nonexistent. Yousafzai used her experiences and awareness of the lack of education for young girls in Pakistan to express her concern for where the value receiving an education was headed. At a young age, she traveled across Pakistan to speak on radio and television shows so she could inform others that there was a necessary need for changing Pakistan’s education system. Yousafzai recalls a point she gave in an interview with Muslim Khan. She says,
“‘Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.’ Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human” (Yousafzai 162).
I will add onto Yousafzai’s answer and say that education is for everyone– men and women. To deny an individual the right to receive an education is not only limiting their knowledge about the world, but also limiting their ability to establish their agency, as well. The young girls and women in Pakistan who have not received an education are at a loss, a loss that will worsen due to the unnecessary prejudice and neglect they endure on a social and personal level. This is not right, and this should not be happening.
There are voices from young women that are seeking to be heard. Their agency is malleable in the most positive and unique way. Access to education can impact a young woman’s life in such a colossal way. I would not be the same young woman I am now if I had not been able to receive an education. I’m sure like me, all of you are extremely grateful for the teachers, professors, and classes you have taken during your primary, secondary, and collegiate careers. We must use our knowledge and experiences and keep moving forward to fight for women to have equal access to an education around the world.
I know that together our voices will be steady and strong.
Together, our voices will be heard.