1 2 2013

The education of women as a tool in development: challenging the African maxim

Serena Suen

Abstract


The old African proverb  “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)” was a pioneer in its time for realizing the importance of women’s education when men predominated education opportunities. This maxim recognized the benefits of education and has repeatedly become the motivation for global development efforts to offer education opportunities for women. Yet, fundamentally this maxim bears problematic assumptions that further disempower women and reinforce patriarchal stereotypes. This essay seeks to unpack the assumptions behind the proverb by viewing how educating women is believed to lead to the development of the family and nation in the context of sub-Saharan Africa, an area still facing low female literacy rates and high gender disparity in the enrolment of formal schooling.


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ISSN 2052-8590 (Online)