Team Change: Education and Literacy

Education and literacy are at the heart of our society. If someone is not able to read or write, then how can they fully participate in their society? How can they vote in elections? How can they fully understand the implications of their actions and their leaders’ actions if they are not educated about world events, mathematics, science, and history? If people are not educated as much as they can be and as much as they wish to be, then it will be difficult for them to support themselves and their families through physical labor, minimum-wage, or black-market jobs, which are generally the main types of jobs available for those with at least a high school diploma. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the states with the largest percentages of jobs in industries that require less than a high school diploma were either vacation/retirement destinations with opportunities in hospitality or states that had job opportunities in natural resources and mining, neither of which often require more than, or even as much as, a diploma. Unfortunately, neither of these fields offer many opportunities for advancement without at least a diploma, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree(s).

 

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Source: Flickr Creative Commons

 

I firmly believe that this is an excellent cause to study and work on actually advocating change in. In today’s job market and economy, a lack of education in essential fields such as science and mathematics and an inability to read are a death sentence for getting any job more advanced than minimum-wage- and only in certain industries are these jobs even available. If you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Occupation Finder, most jobs that require no formal education credentials were physical labor and/or minimum wage jobs. For example, no one is going to be allowed to work in a school without at least a high school diploma or associate’s degree – even a secretary position requires at least a high school diploma, and some secretary positions require a bachelor’s degree. I think improving the education field and spreading initiatives for literacy and keeping kids in school are extremely important goals for people advocating change in this field to have, and these would be great ideas for my group to focus on if we worked on this topic.

Girl Up! (Team Amigas)

Girl Up is a club dedicated to raising awareness and funds for girls education in developing countries. In high school, I was a member of a local chapter of the club, and I was given the opportunity to attend the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. From all of these experiences, I gained a lot of knowledge about issues related to girls’ education in developing countries. I learned that when women are included in the workforce, the economy of a developing country improves significantly. Furthermore, giving girls official birth certificates allows them to be enrolled in schools. Not only a national movement, this movement is important to the U.S. specifically. Former First Lady Michelle Obama started a campaign called Let Girls Learn related to the movement. As a result of the efforts of Let Girls Learn and Girl Up members and activists, the U.S. Congress passed the Girls Count Act. This law helps ensure that girls in developing countries are registered at birth.

On the other hand, the students at the University of Delaware do not seem as motivated about this movement as other movements. There are not many clubs centered around promoting education in developing regions. Instead of looking at this as a negative, we can use it as motivation to encourage students to gather together to support this movement. Furthermore, this cause is easy to support because fundraisers are easy to plan. Organizations such as Girl Up take the money raised by fundraisers and do the grassroots work themselves, making it easy for anyone, anywhere to get involved. Lastly, as college students, we understand the importance of getting a quality education. Therefore, we are motivated to raise money and awareness for education in places where education is lacking. In summary, my group should focus on the movement for bringing education opportunities to girls in third-world countries because the University of Delaware does not have many similar clubs, it is easy to support, and it is relatable for college students.

Advocacy: Fighting to Resolve Problems in One’s Society

To me, advocacy means being educated on the seriousness of a particular issue in our society and fighting politically, legally, economically, or socially to resolve or improve it to help others. It means fighting for justice for someone who is unable to for any reason. Without lobbyists advocating for change, government officials and the general public might not be particularly aware of the issues in their societies that need to be resolved. I think of movements such as the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the Occupy Wall Street movement when I think about movements that work to create change generally. All three included direct, open protests that were impossible for their audiences to ignore, were about issues that were urgently essential to their participants’ lives, brought issues that were not even in the newspaper to the front page and cable news headlines, and are still alive today. While the Occupy Wall Street movement began much more recently (2011) than the civil rights movement and women’s movement, which can both be traced back to the mid-late 1800’s (civil rights in terms of African Americans’ rights as freedpeople and American citizens), all three movements are still going strong or are at least very well-known within our society today.

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The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21. 
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At a Black Lives Matter protest.

I would like to explore:

As a student who will graduate with debt, I am very interested in any way that I can get out of paying off said debt with constantly growing interest and in what the workforce will look like when I graduate and have to pay off my loans, along with many other college students across the country.

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I also care a great deal about mental health awareness because I have seen so many of my friends and family members suffer from mental health problems: everything from various eating disorders to insomnia and depression. Mental health is still a very stigmatized issue in our society, but the only way to de-stigmatize it is to inform the public about it so they do not fear or marginalize those with mental health problems.

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I am fascinated by the movements to improve our educational system, such as the Education Opportunity Network’s goal to reorganize America’s public schools to better support students personally and academically regardless of economic factors or zip codes. I firmly believe, both personally and as a future teacher, that every person has the right to the best education possible for them personally if they wish to take advantage of it.

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I would like to explore these movements to better understand their history, their future goals, and how their actions may impact the national or global economy in the future, since these factors may potentially have significant impact on my personal economic well-being as well as that of the U.S. itself. Given the current political climate, I would expect problems with the movements advocating for change getting through to lawmakers. Since their non-conservative agendas will likely contradict the plans of the conservative Congressmen, Senators, and President and could make their lives and re-elections difficult if they agreed to support these movements’ more liberal agendas.

Advocacy: Education and Action

To me advocacy is educating yourself on a topic that is often misconstrued, misinformed, or not even spoken about and to then take the information you learned and present it to others in order to bring about awareness and understanding.  The ultimate goal is to change how the topic is handled or viewed by our current society.

The word movement instantly brings to mind the historic women’s voting rights movement and its connection to the current women’s movement seen advocating for a multitude of topics very recently at the women’s march worldwide.  Historically the Civil Right’s movement sought to bring to light the issues faced by those marginalized in America specifically African-American people and the ways in which they were and still are mistreated.

With awareness comes a call to action.  “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu.  This quote by Desmond Tutut, a South African social rights activist, connects the education side of advocacy to the movements that come from advocacy.  Once aware of the issue and injustices in this world there must be a movement to create a difference.  The final goal of advocacy is to no longer need to spread awareness of an inequality because the inequality no longer exists.

The student debt movement interests me and intersects with my life as the movement strives to lower the amount of debt students face upon graduation. The women’s rights movement strives to make sure women have equal rights, reproductive rights, and much more. By exploring these movements I will become aware of inequalities that affect me and work with other like-minded people to make a difference in my own and  my peers future. Moving forward I anticipate challenges convincing others that there are still issues to face when it comes to women’s rights and making a change legally in the current political climate.

My Focus: Girls & Education

by Shannon McNaul

“Movements that Work to Create Change” Word Cloudcloud

My Interests

The movements that I would like to explore are movements related to gender equality and education reform and equality. Some of the specific movements include education for girls in developing countries, feminism, education reform, women in STEM fields, and women’s health.steminist

Why?

These movements definitely intersect with my sense of identity; I know the importance of education and I am a woman. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to receive a high quality education, and now, I have the privilege of attending UD. Because of my background, I think that quality education is very important and that all people in all parts of the globe should have access to it. Girls in developing regions of the world are especially deprived of this necessary education. Also, I am a female and I am an engineer. Engineering is a male-dominated field, and I do not want to be disadvantaged in my career because I am a woman.

Benefits

These movements have already created change in the world. To begin, women in first world countries are increasingly being treated and paid equally as men in their careers. Also, more women are making names for themselves in business, politics, engineering, and science. Next, a benefit related to girls in developing countries includes helping girls get a higher level of education and better their lives instead of having only a primary level of education and being oppressed by their country’s culture. The Girls Count Act, which ensures that girls have official birth certificates, reduces child marriage and gives girls more access to education.

Challenges

On the other hand, there are many challenges that need to be addressed moving forward. To begin, many people misunderstand the definition of feminism and do not think it promotes gender equality. Two examples of this include the countermovement to feminism, meninism, and the labeling of feminists as “feminazis”. Another major challenge is the lack of support from men even though feminism is important for both genders. A challenge for girls in developing countries is that the way of life is so ingrained in society that it is hard for girls to disobey the culture to go to school or to avoid child marriage.unicef

These Movements on Campus

On college campuses, there are multiple student organizations that support these causes: Girl Up Campus, Scientista, Society for Women Engineers, Student Activists for Gender Equality, and UNICEF.girlup