President Obama promised the world, in his March 7th Saturday address that any “country who wants to be our friend or is our friend” will “Let Girls Learn.” Obama stressed that the barriers to the education of girls and women are not merely the lack of access or the money for uniforms, but can also include the risk of being hurt, kidnapped or worse for girls who want to learn. This is where the prestige and the power of the United States are critical. It is the essential piece to make this campaign successful.
Peace Corps can provide the teachers and the advocates, the “boots on the ground.” But, Peace Corps Volunteers cannot intervene politically in a country, nor do they have much power to protect girls. It will take the governments of our host countries, supported by the United States to eliminate these barriers. And Obama has declared: “Let Us Begin” to “Let Girls Learn.”
To listen to the President’s inspiring speech, go to http://tunein.com/radio/President-Obamas-Weekly-Address-p11074/ then, scroll down to Past Episodes and click on March 7th.
It was not that long ago, that our own country was very ambivalent about the education of women. “Let Girls Learn, but not Too Much,” could have been the theme when I graduated from college. Peace Corps was a pioneer in encouraging equal participation by women. It was one of the reasons I applied. I have searched in vain for the Executive Order that stated that men and women were to be treated equally in the Peace Corps.
Nonetheless, as members of an all female training group, in 1963, we knew that we were to be treated equally. Although we did wonder exactly what that meant when the male trainees of our companion group, climbed halfway up Sandia Peak with a sack lunch and were back at Okie Joe’s by three and we did the same climb a week later, to the top of Sandia with a 35 pound pack, spent the night in the rain and returned to do the Marine Rope Jungle!
One of the earliest and best Peace Corps Leaders in Colombia was a woman. Female RPCVs quickly moved into important positions in Peace Corps as evaluators, administrators, trainers and country directors. All of this long before Affirmative Action became law. It is fitting that Peace Corps and its Woman Director will lead the effort!