For One And All

I think it is safe to say that back in my elementary school and high school days I faked sick on more occasions than allowed. It goes without saying I failed a few tests and in true ‘Lottie fashion’ left all my studying to the eleventh and a half hour. I would be lying if I say I don’t do that anymore. For me going to school was never a privilege, it was something I had to do in order to get a job in the future.

Well when I was introduced to Malala Yousafzai while reading an article on, my views on my education changed completely.

Malala has been on the world’s stage since 2009, when she blogged for the BBC, at the age of 11, about female education in Pakistan under the rule of the Taliban. Malala’s name soon became an international household name due to her inner power to create change and through her constant interviews and articles about the need for education.

Up until October 9, 2012, I heard of Malala’s name every so often but I did not take to heart the seriousness of the situation she was trying to make the world aware of. However, that soon changed. On October 9 2012, the Taliban shot Malala, while she was on a bus on her way home from an exam.

A student who was fighting to learn was now fighting to live.

Fortunately, Malala overcame her injuries and on July 12, her 16th birthday, addressed the United Nations student delegation with a speech regarding education for every child and her overwhelming strength to never give up on this mission.

It was on this day that the power of females, the lack of basic human rights around the world, and the absolute need for education was no longer sitting in the backseat of my head.

Thank god, I grew up in an area where my gender never affected my education. There was never a time that I thought that my education was not equal to education of my male counterparts. I felt safe in school, and knew my future was secure due to the education I was receiving. It was a gift that I took and still take for granted.

However, in many under developed countries and even developed countries female education is a gift that very few receive. Sixty six million girls are still waiting to receive that gift.

Research has shown that education improves one’s standards of living as well as one’s lifespan. Education creates a stop to child marriages, children giving birth to children, poverty, human trafficking and prostitution. With every year a girl is in school, her income rises 20% as an adult.

It bewilders me as to why the phrase “female education” creates issues and debates among parents, educators, and politicians. Female education is marked as a complex issue. I will never even begin to be able to comprehend that.

Education is a basic human right. Human rights are not complex. Human rights are an absolute necessity that every single human being deserves regardless of gender, color, religion etc. End of story.

The more I read about the lack of female education in under developed countries, the more disgusted I become with female portrayal in developed countries.

There are more women in America finishing college than men. This means that more bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees are being awarded to women. However, with this remarkable educational break through why is it that women continue to let men degrade them?

Why do we still allow and sometimes watch shows such as The Real Housewives series or Princesses: Long Island? All these shows promote is that the myths that women are dependent, unintelligent, and materialistic are indeed true.

Why do we allow Times Square to put up big, fat advertisements with women who are half naked (and that’s being generous)? Why do we allow our bodies to take precedence over our brains?

Why do we allow and support pop stars who produce song after song that degrade and objectify women? And let’s not even discuss the music videos that they come out with. All in favor of MTV going on HBO say “I”. “I!”

Why do we continue to allow ourselves to fall victim to this false claim that the road to happiness is through Louis Vuitton, Vera Wang and Marc Jacobs? Let’s not forget beauty is only skin deep.

Thankfully, us Westerners, have been born into a generation where the fight for female education has been fought, and in many cases won. However, we have been so fortunate to the point that we have forgotten the struggle. We have forgotten the hardships that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton faced to promote women’s rights. But their voices aren’t in the past.

The voices of Anthony and Stanton and millions of past female activists are still strong. They are still heard through the voices of Malala Yousafzai and Manal Al- Sharif, the Saudi Arabian woman who was arrested for driving a car. Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese writer who was arrested for wearing pants, and the millions of other girls and women who disobey the rules of their government to go to school.

The strength and self-worth of these females should inspire us, female Westerners, to no longer take a backseat when it comes to the portrayal of women in our society. We are not an advertisement on a billboard, we are not in this world to be degraded or to be the main subject in every pop song. We need to once again stand up to declare our worth and greatness.

Just like the strength of women in developing countries should be a daily inspiration to us, I have no doubt that the groundbreaking accomplishments we, Western women, have made in terms of education and living standards has given them the motivation to continue for equality. Women in Pakistan, Sudan, India, Ethiopia, Peru and so many other countries will continue the fight for education and equality in order to provide a better life for the generation to come.

I believe that the females fighting for equality and education are the modern day Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi.

And with that being said, happy Youth International Day to all those young females who take the words of Helen Reddy, “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman” and use them to create change.

About the Author
Lottie Kestenbaum was born to British parents and grew up in New Jersey. To add to the identity crisis, Lottie made aliyah in August 2012. Hello tri-citizenship! She is currently studying Jewish History and English Literature at Bar Ilan University. Lottie shares more of her aliyah adventures & ongoing thoughts on her blog, Newest Sabra on the Block.