Change occurs after people take action, and action occurs when people are inspired. I love to be inspired. Who doesn’t? When I’m inspired, I feel an almost physical response—suddenly my day looks brighter, my life seems more exciting, my dreams more attainable, and those around me appear as potential partners with whom I want to share the thrill, build momentum, and take action. So, I ask myself “How and when am I most inspired?” If I can figure it out, I can share it with more people, and keep the inspiration buzz going and growing.
The percentage of girls admitted each year to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology has been falling. The Joint Entrance Exam 2012 report states that the percentage of girls admitted has decreased from 9.9 in 2011 to 9.7 in 2012. My previous post, Introducing the Girls’ STEM Education Program in India, explains a few of the causes and our endeavors to break those barriers. In continuation of the needs assessment plan for the pilot program to be launched in Southern India, the IIE team set out for another site visit in December 2013.
While the literacy rate among girls is getting better gradually, the gender gap still continues and when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, girls are significantly underrepresented in most parts of India. Various factors are responsible for this disparity, such as differential socialization of men and women, impaired self-confidence and expectations regarding the impact of children on women's academic careers. Parents may not want to spend money for their daughters, or do not want to send their daughters to faraway places for safety concerns. The roots of this problem in India lie in the different gender experiences of boys and girls. As young girls and women, females are socialized to seek help and be help givers rather than to be self-reliant or to function autonomously or competitively, as are boys.
At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting this week, Khalida Brohi spoke on a plenary panel literally filled with rock stars including President Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mo Ibrahim, Sheryl Sandberg and Bono, but Khalida shone brightest of all. Bono, at one point, interrupted her with a gasp and said “Khalida, you are awesome.” He is right. Khalida spoke about her work fighting to end honor killings in Pakistan, and of the many times she cried growing up as she witnessed tragedies unfolding around her. She spoke of her father, who dried her tears and said, “My dear, do not cry. Strategize.”
In my senior year of college, I watched as most of my friends frantically faxed their CVs off and checked their answering machines for messages about interviews. People asked me, ‘Why are you so calm?’ I was not rushing about, because I already knew: I was going to Africa. We all have a place where we feel ourselves, a place to which we are drawn, and most of the time there is just no explaining it. My mom believes she was Native American in another life and feels most at home in New Mexico. My dad—an Irish-American through and through—cycles, speaks and drinks cappuccino like a native Italian. I first came to truly know myself sitting under a thorn tree in Namibia.