Apple recently announced its partnership with Malala Yousafzai to deliver education to more than 100,000 girls in a greater number of countries, including India and Latin America.
Let’s all give a round of applause? Standing ovation?
Maybe not. Here’s why.
The aim to educate only girls in these countries is extremely problematic, as it makes invisible the millions of young boys, who also require an education. The plan assumes and takes it as a given that the male counterparts to these young women are guaranteed an education. This is not always the case. In countries such as India and Latin America, poverty is a key factor in low educational levels, so its not always a gender issue. It can be a class issue, a financial issue, a geographical location issue, it can be a multiple-reason issue, you get where I’m going with this. Gender, you will find, is cross-cut by intersectional factors and is very rarely free standing in the shaping of educational experience or even youth experiences.
Let’s say for arguments sake that education of boys is guaranteed across the board in these countries. It would still be problematic to only educate the female counterparts, as the male group would have received a different kind of education to the one Apple and Malala will be delivering to girls.
Leaving boys behind in this way – whether it be through absolutely no education at all or providing a different type of education – will only fuel a gender civil war between men and women in years to come when these young boys and girls have entered adulthood. Men will become unqualified and unemployed in what is now a rising global middle class, which will contribute to their emasculation. Women on the other hand will feel empowered through what will otherwise be a very western education (delivered by Apple and Malala),and begin to find their viewpoints in comparison to the men from their communities, to be ‘forward’, ‘enlightened’, ‘right’, and experience men’s views as ‘archaic’, ‘misogynistic’, and ‘wrong’.
We have already witnessed the implications playing out in India, where for decades international development agencies have concentrated efforts to empower girls through education. Girls then grow into women and move to the city while men are left behind in often rural areas with conservative frames of mind, which then translate into violence against women in many forms. The sheer rise of rape incidents in India are strong advocates of this point.
Apple and Malala are severely mistaken in their approach, which is merely perpetuating the myth of gender equality.
In order to reduce the disparity between men and women and to truly achieve gender equality, we need men and women to be on par with one another. The way forward is not to educate only girls. It is to educate boys and girls equally.