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Women and Girls and Popular Education 2013 VOF Week 3

Women are Discounted

bell hooks says, “. . . the purpose of education is to show students how to define themselves . . . in the world”

Women’s potentially distinctive learning characteristics have been a topic of interest to scholars, educators, and women. Historically, our ability to learn has been questioned by male Western philosophers and the value of education for women deemed less important than their reproductive capacities.

Paulo Freire’s theory of popular education may provide insight into the ways that women and girls might enhance and transform their world with three goals:
1. Popular education is aimed at empowering the participants through reflection and action
2. Popular education is political education
3. Popular education is the education of the people who are excluded or marginalized by dominant society
Popular education’s key principles include: everyone teaches and learns; everyone shares leadership; education is based on the learner’s experiences and concerns; everyone participates on all levels; students produce new knowledge; students implement critical reflection; students connect local issues to global issues; and, all participate in collective action for social change.

Efforts to incorporate women’s and girls’ knowledge and experience into the learning process may result in a deeper awareness of the sociocultural reality that shapes their lives. Some women/girls seeking education have wondered if there might be a different way to learn that resonates with the experience of being female. Popular education may be an effective vehicle to promote this learning environment.

Popular education philosophy can encourage understanding of the standpoint of being a girl/woman living in today’s world. In this way, they look critically at power structures from their gender and recognize forms of oppression such as poverty, racism, sexism, and class. A focus on gender recognizes the differences between men/boys and women/girls in relation to division of household labor as well as access to and control over resources, assets, and education. It is important to analyze the simultaneous experience of both privilege and marginality in order to identify the multiplicity of oppressions of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, differently abled, language, and geographical location that originate in and support a masculinist/male dominant society.

Popular education enabled homeless mothers in the Boston area to attain their high school GEDs. The women intended to increase their self-esteem, to become inspired to help other low-income women, to advocate for their rights, and to become more involved in their children’s education. The women used knowledge and expertise they gained from popular education to circulate petitions, write letters to legislators, organize and attend lobby days at their state capitol, speak at rallies, and develop pertinent handout materials for information booths at local health fairs. The women created new knowledge and shared this with their community through action for social change, to address the academic, personal, and community goals of the poor women and challenge their culture of silence and hopelessness. This helped them remove barriers and move beyond the social and cultural expectations for poor, single mothers. They definitely transgressed the boundaries that held them down and out. The women created action that impacted their community, based on their knowledge of their lived experience of being a poor, homeless, uneducated woman-mother. They transgressed their oppression, mandated by a male dominant society, creating a new vision for and of them.

Another excellent demonstration of the positive impact of popular education for women is a writing project in Australia that was facilitated for the benefit of guiding women through the traumatic life situation of domestic violence. The women used written words and drawing to communicate their experiences. Using creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, and making artwork of all genres, the women were able to name their world through their words and images. The women questioned the language used by the professionals surrounding them and remade that language into a description of their actual experiences. They investigated the power structure of the violence from the inside out and controlled the re-telling of their stories, through their art, embodying their emotional truths by remaking the language to discover fundamental knowledge of their lives. The praxis of empowerment for the women came as a result of not accepting the use of language as it was given to them - they subverted the domination of the abuser/oppressors and gained emotional and physical freedom for themselves.

We must, as a society, look for ways improve access to education for women and girls, to be more inclusive of multiple identities and standpoints, creating safe space within classrooms for the expression of all students’ voices and for the transformative experience of a liberatory education for all.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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jdsilas's picture

to the benefit of society

It is clearly evident that when a woman is educated she can positively influence activities In government and politics so her community can benefit and be carried along in decision making process.

Make the most out of every opportunity you get in life.

Debra K Adams MA's picture

thanks

I agree completely with you!

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

awinkie's picture

Well done

This post is so well written and focuses on the issues we are presented with today. I look forward to continuing to read your posts and hear what you have to say on other issues .

Debra K Adams MA's picture

appreciation

thank you for your words - please share with me thoughts and opinions on this model of education! this is how I learn best - the dialogue amongst peers!

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

erinluhmann's picture

Very Informative

Dear Debra,

I've taken a few gender and women studies courses in graduate school, but had not been exposed to this education model prior to reading your submission. Thanks for sharing insight into this female education model.

I wonder, in there room for male inclusion in popular education? While I agree there needs to be a safe space for women to pursue their education, it would be great to see males exposed to this environment as well.

Also, I appreciated the two examples you gave at the end. They really helped put everything into context.

Best,
Erin

Debra K Adams MA's picture

yes!

popular education is for everyone! gender is not an issue...I believe that everyone has the right to an education and this model is appropriate for everyone. The principles are inclusive so that those most impacted by an issue or concern are the experts who know what they need to solve their own issue or concern. They can and will teach the rest of the world - this is the beauty of popular education! thank you for your support.

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

Mila's picture

Thank you!

Hi Debra,

Thank your for sharing your writing with us in the WorldPulse community. It was interesting to learn about positive education theory. I do feel that your writing would have been better if you including the challenges you faced in education or even just the challenges girls/women in your country face in obtaining an education. When you include a personal story/details/examples in your writing it makes the writing more captivating for the reader and simply more powerful. I look forward to learning more about you.

Best,
Mila

Debra K Adams MA's picture

thanks for feedback

I appreciate feedback. I do understand what you are saying. this is not an excuse but a comment - we only have limited words, right?! lol I will work on what you have suggested! thank you for caring enough to comment

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

ccontreras's picture

Great narrative!

I really enjoyed reading your narrative and your views on education. I truly support what you have written as I really think that education can really be the tool that can improve a person's life. Including any vulnerable populations, like you mentioned young mothers or homeless women. I really look forward to reading more of your works! :-)
Peace and love!
Cynthia

"I embrace emerging experience. I am a butterfly. Not a butterfly collector." - Stafford

Debra K Adams MA's picture

thank you

I appreciate your comment. Also, I love your quote in the signature!

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

Nicole.Staudinger's picture

Feedback

Very good points, Debra. I especially appreciate the examples of education empowerment. It's incredible the way that merely enabling women to share their stories, to "challenge their culture of silence and hopelessness" by communicating and connecting with each other, can be so effective.

Did these projects get any media coverage? These are the kinds of successes that should be highlighted and shared, to encourage the shifting paradigm and serve as models for future efforts.

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