Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stones Into Schools and The Importance of Healthy Educated Girls

I just started the book 'Stones into Schools'. I had it shipped to my friend's house so I could read it over the holidays. I've only read a few pages but it's so intensely inspiring, I could sit here all day long. My mom reads books like that. I'll buy her a book and by evening time she'll hand it back to me finished.

In the introduction Greg Mortenson writes about the importance of educating girls . . .

" Why do so many Americans seem to care so deeply about people who live in a place that is so far away? Despite everything that has happened, how can our anger and our fear be transcended so consistently by our decency? And what is it about the promise of educating children - especially girls - that so often, and with such fervor, seems to evoke what is best in all of us?"

"No other factor even comes close to matching the cascade of positive changes triggered by teaching a single girl how to read and write. . . .

Take the issue that many in the West would consider to be the most pressing of all. "Jihad" is an Arabic word referring to a 'struggle' that is undertaken as means of perfecting oneself, improving society, or defeating the perceived enemies of Islam. In Muslim societies, a person who has been manipulated into believing in a extremist violence or terrorism often seeks the permission of his mother before he may join a militant jihad - an educated women, as a rule, tend to withhold their blessing for such things. Following 9/11, for example, the Taliban's forces suffered from significantly increased desertions; as a countermeasure, they began targeting their recruitment efforts in regions where female literacy was especially low."

When discussing the importance of passing laws to prevent schools from being built on top of sources of pollution, one fact often is able to put the issue into its true perspective. Little girls are born with their entire life supply of eggs, all their potential children rest within their bodies at birth. If you send a little girl to a school that sits on top of a former landfill or 300 yards from a coal waste silo, her lifetime supply of eggs will be dosed with toxic chemicals. The impacts of this will be felt not only to her own body and psychological well-being but to the quality of life of her family and entire community for generations. In other words, the success of your community rests with how well you take care of your daughters.

As I have mentioned before, a common tactic from the chemical industry is to put polluting facilities in communities that do not have the resources to prevent them from doing so. A poor neighborhood, usually of color, whose inhabitants are too busy trying to pay bills to have time to organize to stop the permitting and construction process of chemical facility. This is no different than what Greg Mortenson states in 'Stones into Schools' when speaking of fundamentalists targeting communities where female literacy is low.

I'm currently in the process of thinking through a series of articles and photo essay's that I would like to create that compares contaminated communities in Europe with similar ones in the United States. I'm struggling with the exact perspective from which these articles could speak. Maybe the impact on chemical contamination on female populations could be interesting and have a wider impact. Need to think about it a little more.

Alright, I'm heading back to the book and another cup of coffee.

And fresh off the presses: Taliban Blows Up Girls School

Renee Claire

1 comment:

Tidy said...

Renee. Thanks your for this sensitive commentary. You and your readers may want to visit my website which includes the story of Toxic Justice. I wrote of my toxic injury at school and how I fought for justice for myself and the other injured. I include news and resources to inspire others to help us insure healthier school environment. Nancy Swan