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June 23, 2005

Woman Rant 

A girl going to school is a big topic in former Taliban run Afghanistan….at least the media has made it one. Girls of all ages going to school everyday is an amazing and awesome thing considering that countries past and I fully support it in anyway I can.

However it creates a dynamic that we in the west don’t think about. You see we see education as empowerment (and it is), how ever too many times that empowerment turns into personal torture in poor Islamic cultures.

One is still hard pressed to find a marriage in these countries that was not arranged. Regardless of religion, culturally all marriages are arranged by the families.

A woman is empowered by her education in that culture if her family is rich and she can go to the west. However if they are middle class or poor she will end up married to some random guy who may or may not have the same level of education. On top of it 98% of the time she will only be a baby making machine anyway and will have to stay at home covered head to toe. Now a village girl who grew up like that with little or no education may not have too much of a problem with it. But for an educated girl/woman it has to be sheer torture. She has no choice; she can not rise up as an empowered woman and make changes. The reputation of both families would be ruined not to mention she would probably end up very hurt or dead.

When this element is applied to minority groups such as Christians in those same countries the pool of eligible bachelors goes WAY down. To find an educated, motivated minority Christian man for every educated Christian woman is impossible in many Islamic countries. Marriage between Christians is not a luxury like it is in the states. Out there it’s a requirement, even if one party converts to the others religion, it is highly looked down on and most family’s end up in major feuds (and people die if it’s the majority religion converting to the minority religion for marriage).

So my point is this. When you see the media stories about the millions of girls going to school in these normally woman oppressive cultures, don’t be naive enough to think it is a full step forward…. Look at the big picture and ensure any group you support has plans that incorporate more than one partial step. It is a process, but all too often organizations go with the fan fair of the media and stop short and bringing real long lasting help and solutions to problems the say they are fixing.

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