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Education plays a critical role in empowering women. Human rights activist Malcolm X said that to educate a woman is to educate and liberate a nation. We hear this, we know this, we believe in it, but how do we make this come true? Is it possible for you and I to make a difference when we are not teachers and when we are not involved with anything remotely associated with education?
According to Kerry Damons of Boston City Campus and Business College, each and everyone of us can make a tangible difference, no matter who and where we are.
“It’s great when people feel a compulsion to do something outside of their usual activities in celebration of Woman’s Day and Woman’s Month,” she comments. “We may rack our brains to find the right thing to do and sometimes, sadly, end up doing nothing.”
Woman’s Month is officially past the halfway mark, but Damons points out that it’s not too late to do something effective if you are wondering what you can or should do.
“Create an ideas list of things that are within your means to do,” Damons advises.
“Then try to find one thing that you feel you can do this year, a contribution that you can still make. Next year, you can revisit the list, update it, choose a couple of things – and do them throughout the year as part of your normal to-do list.
“This is a quick and effective way to make sure you also do your bit to help women follow their education and career dreams.”
Damons suggests the following ideas:
1. Ask what you can do: before going off on your own mission to improve the lives of the women, ask some women who are important in your life how you can best support them. To assist meaningfully, you have to give what the other person desires or needs. Women’s needs vary from a listening ear to babysitting, meals and assistance with studies or work loads.
2. Encourage and motivate: tell every woman that she is valuable, she deserves success, and that you are right behind her to cheer her on. Many studies show that women are held back by their own beliefs of “not being good enough” even when they are more than competent.
Encouragement is a powerful way to get such women unstuck from limiting beliefs. The graduation ceremony held at each Boston Campus at the end of every year highlights the effect that recognition and praise have on a person to achieve greater heights.
3. Take a schoolgirl under your wing: many high school pupils don’t have parents who can assist them; others don’t have access to information about careers, career paths, courses of study, bursaries, learnerships, and scholarships.
Offer to help a schoolgirl with obtaining more information, contacting colleges, and completing applications. Discuss with her how to choose a career best suited to her abilities, talents and academic performance. If you know her well, you may be of great assistance in pointing out talents and qualities she may not be aware that she possesses.
4. Go shopping for a career: you can drive a pupil or group of pupils to the Boston City Campus and Business College nearest to you where she or they can go for career advice and aptitude assessments free of charge. It will be a shopping trip that will leave a lasting legacy.
5. Share knowledge and resources: introduce the women in your life to people who can give them a career break – give them a networking start – be it that first elusive job, climbing the corporate ladder or starting a business enterprise.
6. Help others to climb: help the women you know to explore their full potential and to persevere. You can for example babysit and so assist a home-bound mom to study part-time. One day when her children are independent enough and she has completed her qualification, she will be able to enter the workplace.
7. Demand that everyone receives the rights granted by the constitution: live by and insist on fair and decent work for all, irrespective of gender. Don’t forget the women in your life who work for you.
8. Job shadow: help women, especially those who have not had workplace exposure, to see and understand the work you do if they aspire to work in the same field. Job shadowing is becoming common practice and you’ll probably find your superiors would welcome such a social responsibility initiative.
9. Acknowledge: acknowledge the contribution of women. Don’t introduce a friend as someone else’s wife – introduce her by her name.
Graça Machel complains that almost everyone knows that she is married to Nelson Mandela and is the widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel. But only a few people acknowledge her for the work she did as minister of education in her native Mozambique or for the work she has done for the UN.
10. Make yourself visible and speak up so you can be heard: when others see and hear you support women’s rights, they will follow suit. This advice also comes from Graça Machel.
Boston City Campus & Business College offers more than 80 dynamic career qualifications at more than 40 branches nationwide. Unisa degree and media studies are also available at selected branches.
Call Boston at 011 551 2000, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www. boston.co.za or find it on Facebook.