The best example of teacher closing the gender gap in education.

When I look back to my childhood the only gender inequality I can remember is the fact that boys always got easier accepted in dance groups and choirs. Girls interest in those activities was much higher than boys interest, so to have a gender balance, demands for boys went high.

Both of my parents had always worked full time and they also both did housework – they shared cooking and cleaning. My mother usually took responsibility of doing laundry and sewing clothes, but only because she was a sewing professional. To be honest my dad could and actually did laundry and even sewing now and then.

First time I really understood what “gender gap” means was at the time when I did a study exchange semester in Norway as a part of my Masters degree. I had a class named “Scandinavian welfare system” where we talked about women’s right to education, career and equally divided responsibilities at home. No doubt, we do have gender salary gap in Latvia, but I believe that boys having lower achievements at school or having more women than men who graduate university are much bigger issues. These stories lead me to two conclusions: the gender gap might exist in different ways in different countries and to close gender gap we need to create social changes, because it is connected to our historical and cultural background.

Sunny Varkey, founder of Varkey Foundation and Global Teacher Prize, said: “Whatever the question, education is the answer”.  Education can be the answer to the question how to close the gender gap, but to carry this out we need to find a way to create social changes in a way David Gershon has suggested: create a vision, empower individuals, implement the vision through social diffusion, support individuals, continually refine it based on feedback.

I have had an honor to get to know teacher Aqeela Asifi from Pakistan, who actually has narrowed the gender gap through creating social changes. She has said: “If the world wants the underdeveloped countries to progress and prosper, their foremost priority should be providing access to quality education for both boys and girls.”

When she came to refugee camp local girls explained her: “We are girls, we are not supposed to go to school”. Their mothers said: “Sister, you are new here. You made this remark (i.e. “Why girls don’t go to school?”), but be careful not to talk like this again about girls’ education.”  But Aqeela did smart. She went from home to home and talked to parents. She found common topic – the Quran. Aqeela asked if parents understood what they read in the Quran. Many parents were surprised because they didn’t even know that every single word in this text actually means something. So they started to like an idea of their daughters being able to read and understand the text.

She started with this vision of ability to understand the Quran and first few students, whom Aqeela taught just to read and write. Today she has reached 1155  registered students and she can even say: “Their traditions have changed”.

Get to know Aqeela Asifi’s story here:

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