Be Bold for Change
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of listening to Tina Tchen, former assistant to Barack Obama and former Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama, at Mulberry Schools Trust Annual Education Lecture.
Within the Obama Administration, Tchen also served as the Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls. For me, Tchen embodies the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: Be Bold for Change. She is the recipient of many awards, including in 1999 the Leadership Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and the ‘Women of Achievement’ award in 1996 from the Anti-Defamation League.
Tchen spoke about the Let Girls Learn campaign - an initiative started by Michelle Obama and Tchen to ensure that adolescent girls around the world get the education they deserve. She argued that educating girls can transform lives, families, communities and entire countries. When girls are educated, they lead healthier and more productive lives. They gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to break the cycle of poverty.
They strengthen their societies.
And yet, as UNESCO reminds us:
there are still 31 million girls of primary school age out of school. Of these, 17 million are expected never to enter school
three countries have over a million girls not in school. In Nigeria, there are almost five and a half million, Pakistan, over three million, and in Ethiopia, over one million girls are out of school
there are also 34 million young women out of lower secondary school, missing out on the chance to learn vital knowledge and skills
Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth. UNESO believes that if all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two thirds. In addition, a mother’s education improves child nutrition; if all women received a primary education, 1.7 million children would be saved from the stunting effects of malnutrition.
What if the world truly stepped up to take bold action?
This is the powerful question posed by the organisers of International Women’s Day.
As Tchen argued, educating adolescent girls is pretty much the lynch pin to solving many of the issues in developing countries around the world.
Somewhat controversially, she also argued that it is the same attitudes that also keeps girls and women out of science, technology, engineering and maths.
So how can we as school leaders in the UK step up to take bold action?
Next Generation Leadership
The theme of this year’s annual conference is Next Generation Leadership. This theme has three strands:
Next generation thinking about leadership.
Developing the leaders of the future.
Our young people as the leaders of the next generation.
It is also a powerful call to action.
What is the next generation thinking we need to do – the game-changing thinking – to support girls’ education and bring about change globally and in the UK? How do we purposefully and consciously develop girls and young women as leaders of the future?
We need to be part of a global movement for change. We should use our relatively privileged economic position in the UK to be a force for change. We can start by putting our weight behind initiatives like Let Girls Learn. We can take action. And we can support the young people (girls and boys) in our schools and colleges to take action. We can help to create more inclusive and flexible cultures that value women and men's contributions equally.
As education leaders, we are also public intellectuals. We have wider social responsibilities; we can lead and campaign ethically. We can make our voices heard in the global struggle for the right to an education.
As Malala Yousafzai puts it: “Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
ASCL Annual Conference 2017 is on 10 and 11 March at the ICC Birmingham