Firstly, Happy Women’s History Month wherever you are in the world.
Traditionally, people in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom celebrate Women’s History Month in recognition of the amazing contributions of women throughout history; however, it really has become a global phenomenon.
This Women’s History Month, we at Mobile Guardian, are taking a look at some of the phenomenal women in our history who have impacted the world of education.
Exploring Phenomenal Women, both Past and Present
Our first phenomenal woman is Graça Machel. At the age of 77, she has lived a life as a significant, influential and historically significant woman in Africa. Between the years 1975 to 1989, Graça Machel served as the Minister of Education in Mozambique and went on to become chancellor of the University of Cape Town from 1999 to 2019.
As a former Mozambican first lady, Graça Machel is the only person to have served as the first lady of two different republics, Mozambique and South Africa.
She has continued to be an agent of change ever since, with her role at the helm of the Graça Machel Trust and as a member of The Elders, a group of global leaders working together to promote peace, justice, and human rights.
“It is no secret that in order for a society to advance, it must harness the potential of all of its citizens, and therefore, investment in the education of the girl child is central to vibrant, equitable societies where social justice reigns,”
As a founder and member of the Graça Machel Trust, Graça Machel promotes women’s empowerment and leadership, advocates child rights, and continues to promote good nutrition.
Throughout her life, Graca Michel has lived her life by the principle that impact is more important than power.
In the year 2017, as part of her work with the Graca Machel Trust to promote women’s empowerment and child rights Phase One of an Education project in the Mara Region of Tanzania was implemented. The focus of the project is on out-of-school children, with a focus on young girls who tend to be subjected to cultural biases and as a result, their education is not prioritised.
By the end of the first phase in December 2018, the project had enrolled a total of 20,414 out-of-school children, with 5,120 girls, which made up a quarter of the total number.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Next in our group of phenomenal women is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is well-known for her novels; Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, released in 2003 and 2006 respectively.
Purple Hibiscus was listed for one of the most prominent global literary awards, the Man Booker. However, it was her 2014 essay, We Should All Be Feminists, that truly cemented her place as a prominent thinker and voice of change, especially when it comes to raising girls’ ambition through education in her country of origin Nigeria.
I’ve included some of the most famous words from her essay which feature in Beyoncé’s song, “Flawless”:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise, you will threaten the man”.
We Should All Be Feminists questioned why girls are taught to aspire to marriage and traditional gender roles, and why girls are taught that marriage matters more than ambition, leadership, and success, while boys are given more opportunities and encouraged to lead.
As well as the above, in 2015, a copy of We Should All Be Feminists was distributed to every 16-year-old student in Sweden. The essay was also referenced by Christian Dior’s line of slogan t-shirts.
You can watch Chimamanda’s We Should All Be Feminists Ted Talk here.
Our third phenomenal woman is none other than the former first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama.
Michelle Obama is dedicated to creating programs and resources for girls living in disadvantaged countries that do not have education access. Her “Let Girls Learn initiative” has greatly improved schools and education for adolescent girls with a focus on Africa.
In 2018, the former first lady of the United States also launched the “Girls Opportunity Alliance” under the Obama Foundation.
According to a study conducted by UN WOMEN in 2022, nearly 130 million girls globally are not enrolled in formal education, and more than half of them are in crisis-affected countries. In Afghanistan, girls are no longer allowed to attend secondary school.
“The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table all of that starts with education.”
The Girls Opportunity Alliance seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education, allowing them to achieve their full potential and transform their lives, families, communities, and countries.
Our fourth and the youngest of our phenomenal women is Malala Yousafzai.
Born in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai’s resilience and fighting spirit have been nothing short of incredible and have made her a known force all over the world.
At a young age, Malala became an advocate for women’s rights and education in a country where there are limited freedoms for women and no access to education due to the Taliban rule of Pakistan.
In 2014, when she was just seventeen years old, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her inspiring work in bringing attention to issues regarding women’s rights and girls’ rights and access to education in Pakistan.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Together with her Father Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala founded Malala Fund in 2013 to champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education.
The Malala Fund invests in education advocates and activists who are challenging the policies and practices that prevent girls from going to school in their communities.
Discover Inspiration from the Women of Today
These four incredible women strive to place education at the forefront of global concerns. Through their contributions to creating awareness and empowering women’s rights and the need for prioritising the education of young women throughout the years, they have left a mark on the world. That said, they are certainly just the tip of the iceberg as there are many women throughout history, both past and present, who have and continue to make a difference and impact not only the world of education but global affairs as a whole.
All in all, we hope that this year, we take a moment to learn from these amazing women in history and take inspiration from their lives.
The impact of women around the world is often understated and through education, we’re able to further appreciate the difference that we can all make.