I've always rather liked someecards.com, their cards have a lovely tendency to hit the nail right on the head. Or, you know, amuse me. But this one strikes quite close to home for me.
I went to a tiny sixth form, there were seventeen of us in our year group, my largest class (Maths) had seven people in it. Having chosen sciences and Maths as my higher options, I found myself being the only girl in Higher Chemistry, the only girl in the year who did any kind of Physics, let alone higher, and one of two girls in Higher Maths. When I started at Warwick my tutor talked to us about how 80% of our department was male. It's not that unexpected, "Girls are bad at maths" is generally accepted as a truth.
Earlier this year the European Commission Released a Promotional video "Science: It's a girl thing!" If you haven't had the misfortune of watching this, brace yourself. If someone wanted to win a competition to make women look like vapid, superficial ornaments; parading around for the delectation and delight of some man (who one notes is the only person in the video who is wearing a lab coat and actually seems to be doing anything vaguely scientific) you might as well submit this video straight off. It's pathetic. It totally undermines women as autonomous human beings. And this is in Europe.
South Africa isn't the worst country in Africa as far as education for girls goes, however even so people who have been part of Warwick in Africa before have told us about how in many supposedly mixed sex schools, girls are a rarity. Teaching staff expect girls to get pregnant and leave schools. UNICEF reports that:
“Many schools are not child or girl friendly. Some are situated far from homes, exposing girls to danger when they walk to and from school. Girls trying to stay in school are also at risk of being sexually harassed and exploited in schools by teachers and fellow students.”The same prejudices which women in Europe and America face exist for children in Africa, the assumption that men are simply "better" at certain subjects and, as a result, the jobs these lead to. The expectation, or need, for women to be mothers and primary care givers, at the expense of their own education, their careers, their dreams and aspirations.
In my life I have been so lucky, I have a family that supports me, helps and encourages me to reach my aspirations regardless of my gender. Not everyone has that.