Room to Read for gender equality and education

Education and gender equality

Room to Read for gender equality and education

“Education must not simply teach work – it must teach Life.”  – W. E. B. Du Bois

Learning by example may be the best method of understanding life; but how can you learn when there are no examples and people only preach? Women have been provided with the right to education and the constitution acknowledges their equal status with men. News channels, media personnel, daily newspapers, etc. hold debates on winning the rights for women.  However, those are merely spoken words. Where is the action? Because it is said that ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Women are merely educated or made literate enough to sign a few forms and paper but there is rarely any event where their equality with men and the right to learn and study higher is brought under the spotlight. This is the subject on which John Wood, a social entrepreneur, held a discussion panel at Northeastern University.

Wood’s stern and unwavering belief in the power of education led him to leave his job as Microsoft’s director of business development for the greater China region in 1999, following which he found Room to Read, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving literacy in the developing world. Since then, he himself has become an ‘action figure’ encouraging girls and the female community all around the world to have a respectful seat at the table of equality, literacy, and education.

“If you are educated, you have a moral obligation to give the same opportunity to one child in a less developed country,” he told them. “We need more action figures in this world.” “At Room to Read, we are trying to be social entrepreneurs who educate as many children in the world as possible,” Wood addressed more than 250 students, faculty, and staff who filled the Curry Student Center Ballroom on Monday evening. “In this day and age, anyone who wants to can have an impact on the world.”

Monday’s event was hosted by Northeastern’s Social Enterprise Institute, which has contributed to Room to Read’s success by donating money to build libraries at schools in India.

Since its inception in 2000, Room to Read has grown into one of the world’s most successful, fiscally efficient social entrepreneurship organisations. Over the last 13 years, it has built more than 15,000 libraries and 1,681 schools in poor communities in 10 countries  like Asia and Africa, including Laos, Nepal, and Vietnam. The  non-profit education has already reached 7.8 million children and will achieve its goal of 10 million in 2015, a full five years earlier than expected. For his amazing social work, in 2011, Forbes magazine named Wood to its “Impact 30” list of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

Another striking feature of Room to Read’s success is its method for building schools and libraries. Rather than asking volunteers to travel to the countries in which they build the education facilities, the nonprofit challenges locals to help with the work, allowing them to contribute to the process.

“We honour the work ethic of the local communities by saying we aren’t going to build it for you, we are going to build it with you,” Wood said. “Let the local people contribute the sweat equity because many times parents there are cash strapped and this is what they have to offer.”

The world is in a dire need of ‘action figure’ such as John Wood, whose sheer willpower and belief in the progress and fruit of education has resulted in encouraging people in the remote corners of the world to take part in the initiative of educating the girl child and asserting them with equal status in the society.

Dibyasha Das

Dibyasha Das
Dibyasha Das

An amateur. A writer. A dreamer. An English literature student with many more miles to go

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