Ending Gender Inequality

Contributed by Anita van Dam

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

As part of her Global Ambassador Award submission Anita included this article that she wrote on Ending Gender Inequality as part of the Academic Achievement Identity.

Ending Gender Inequality

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s working hours are done by women, but they only earn 10% of the world’s income? Or that 60% of 77 million children without primary education are girls?

Research says that woman own less than 1% of the world’s property, and that out of 876 million adults worldwide that cannot read or write, two thirds of that are woman. 

Ever thought how gender inequality is stopping these beautiful humans from being treated fairly with respect and pride?

Gender inequality is one of the Millennium Development Goals that is considered heavily on and thought carefully through about how we can make every human being have equal chances, an equal say and equal opportunities, especially women and girls so they can be treated fairly. Girls should have a chance to learn to read and write and finish their schooling fully instead of being taken out in the middle of education to help their parents with work to allow their male relatives to learn. According to the United Nations Population Fund women who are educated are more likely to have fewer children, become pregnant at a more appropriate age than woman who were denied schooling and will have healthier children too. Most important, they are more likely to send their own children onto full education.

Furthermore, promoting gender inequality will have a positive effect on reducing poverty, another MDG that is extremely important and thoroughly thought through. When women get their healthy dose of education, they would be able to think carefully before doing something for example, they wouldn’t have more children than they can afford to take good care of. They would also be able to get a better and higher wage job which will also bring more respect to women throughout the community. With women getting more wages and fewer children, they would be able to take care of their family properly thus they would be free of poverty and reducing it.

Women with a voice make great role models in our human society with more ideas, ways to solving problems and are represented like the source of light in a dark atmosphere. By giving women a chance to vote and a chance to have a say is like allowing a hermit crab out of its shell and when that time comes, the Earth would become an unfolded map full of information.

Thailand has a few societies/foundations that help and encourage women to become brave and independent people who can express whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want. A very powerful person who believes in women and a book with unread mysteries is Khun Mechai. He believed in “giving women a choice” and made sure that women know how many children they’re going to have and that they and their children have a higher chance of good education and by that, you reduce the chance of a family not being able to care for their family and also increase confidence in women. Empowered women ultimately lead to an empowered community.

To conclude, I would like to say that I do believe that women need to be equal. We must have a say and equal chances and gender inequality must be stopped. We should also advertise about this so it becomes a well-known issue and everyone can help to end this. Remember, “If you educate a man, you educate a person but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”

Thank you for reading,

Anita van Dam

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Pom and Kong – future leaders of Thailand

Pom

Pom

Kong

Kong

How long have you studied at the Mechai Patana School for?

– Kong has been at the MPS for fives years and remembers Goldfish PLC, a Regent’s School business and social enterprise group that visited the school a few years back.

– Pom has been at the school for two years.  They are both in Grade 11.

The natural environment

The natural environment

Why did you come to MPS?

Pom – My mother told me about the school and when I came to visit I liked the natural feel to the school and how the students were learning.

Kong – I liked the school environment and the fact that the school focused on project based learning and gave the students many different experiences to learn from.

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

What is your favourite thing about MPS?

Kong – opportunities, e.g. the one term exchange with Regents School in Pattaya.

Pom – Learning to play the ukulele and having a ukulele band at the school, I like to learn about music and love playing it.

What do you want to study at university and what career would you like to follow in the future?

Pom – I would like to study languages and work as a guide, possibly have my own business for travellers.

Kong – I would like to be a linguist and have my own translation business.

Another one of those messages

Another one of those messages

How does the MPS help the students become global citizens?

Pom – The school focuses a lot on business and social enterprise and we learn how to give back to our communities.  We are also expected to be tour guides to visitors who come to the school and to think outside the box.

Kong – The school has taught me to be sharing and caring.

A future MPS student and global citizen?

A future MPS student and global citizen?

If you were a teacher what would you say is the most important thing about teaching young people?

Pom – It is important to teach young people how to help themselves and how to help others.  Most teachers in Thailand only teach about the subject.  At MPS we learn how to help ourselves and especially how to help others.

Kong – To teach the young people how to be a good person and how to share with each other and to care for each other.

Khop khun krup Pom and Kong.

 

A Centre for Lifelong Learning and Community Partnership

We are here!

We are here!

The first thing that strikes you when arriving at the Mechai Bamboo School is the setting; a lush campus full of greenery, bridges over waterways, bamboo buildings and lines of mango trees.  On entering the front of the school you are immediately welcomed by the Friendship Bridge – a large bamboo and concrete walkway that transcends a large pool and takes you into the heart of the school.  My youngest, who loves bridges and is therefore in his element, bounced across the bridge and shouted “rabbits!” being the first to spot the little island of rabbits from the middle of the bridge.  There are so many things to find and discover around this school (Khun Mechai likes his thought provoking messages for example) that it is an important reminder of being mindful and taking in your environment at all times.  The Bamboo School is truly a centre for lifelong learning and a hub for community development and education; you can see and feel it everywhere you walk – what an environment to learn in everyday.

"Rabbits!" seen from the Friendship Bridge

“Rabbits!” seen from the Friendship Bridge

It was a pleasure to see the Mechai Patana students again, especially those that I have had the pleasure to meet and work with over the last three years.  The students are always polite and pleased to see you and they quickly welcomed us to their school and home.  New and Pom showed us to our rooms for the next 3 days and it was great to catch up with them both and find out how their studies are going.  New is hoping to go to Khon Koen University at the end of next year and study to be a linguist.  Her English is definitely a lot better than my Thai!  It was also great to see Kong again and to be introduced by him at dinner time to all the students at the school.

Pom and New show us around

Pom and New show us around

Something that struck us was the fact that the teachers were not really present, I don’t mean that they had done a runner as I am sure they are very busy, but it was suddenly very apparent that the senior students were being very attentive to us and making sure everything happened smoothly.  They organised dinner and evening prayers and then New addressed all 130 students regarding a discipline matter, apparently about listening to music only in their dorms.  Although I did not really understand what she was saying it was obvious that she had the full attention of every student and that she was to be taken very seriously.  When she had finished speaking there was a spontaneous round of applause from the rest of the students.

One of those little messages you will find

One of those little messages you will find

I said to my own kids as we walked back to our room after the evening assembly if they had noticed who was looking after us and leading all the activities… I was glad that they responded, “the students.”  I also pointed out that we had not seen one student on an iPhone or mobile device since we had been at the school, which was also impressive and a powerful message.  I like the fact that every student was connected in the moment and not disconnected due to an appliance which you see all the time today – at restaurants, on public transport, in meetings, in the cinema, at school, etc.  I am even more determined that we make the most of our time visiting this unique learning environment and connect as much as possible with our hosts, the community and the opportunities that present themselves to us.

Khun Mechai – transforming education in Thailand

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

The Mechai Patana School, also known as The Bamboo School, in Buriram in the North-east of Thailand is an amazing place for learning and community engagement.  In fact Khun Mechai Viravaidya, the founder of the school, likes to refer to the school as a 7Eleven – a ‘hub’ for the community that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  Khun Mechai has never done things by halves and is one of the leading social entrepreneurs and innovators of education in Thailand today.  Many people knew of Khun Mechai as ‘Mr. Condom,’ the man who spoke out in the 80’s and 90’s about the imminent threat of HIV/AIDS to Thailand and travelled the country promoting the use of contraception and using his ability to use humour and wit to get the message across to the (especially rural) Thai people.  He has rightfully been recognised with numerous awards and global positions for his work on population, development and HIV/AIDS issues as you can see in his short biography below.*

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Today, though, he is still working hard for the rural disadvantaged and believes education is the key factor to bringing better opportunities and equality to rural communities and the people.  The Bamboo School is a unique and holistic approach to education within a typically rote learning based Thai education system.  His model gives young rural people the chance to learn life skills and the confidence to use them to be successful in life – not just for themselves but also for their families and their communities, ultimately preventing the educated from migrating to the urban centres such as Bangkok.  The Mechai Patana students engage in service learning, work experience, social enterprise initiatives, the interviewing and recruitment of their teachers, financial responsibility, creativity, sustainable thinking and action, etc.  They really are amazing global citizens who are independent learners and succeeding academically.  Khun Mechai has recently formed a partnership with a prestigious Thai university that has recognised that the MPS students are equipped with the learning skills and values to be successful in tertiary education and beyond and has agreed to offer places to every student that graduates from the Bamboo School.

Who is teaching who?

Who is teaching who?

Khun Mechai spoke at the We Walk Together conference in October 2010 and is an inspiring speaker for young people and educators.  I strongly recommend that you visit the Bamboo School in Buriram or in Jomtien (south of Pattaya), even better invite Khun Mechai into your school or workplace – you will not be disappointed.

*Khun Mechai Viravaidya is the Founder and current Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), one of Thailand’s largest and most successful private, non-profit, development organizations. Since 1974, PDA has initiated community- based family planning services, innovative poverty reduction programs, large-scale rural development and environmental programs, as well as groundbreaking HIV/AIDS prevention activities throughout Thailand.

Mechai Viravaidya had a pivotal role in Thailand’s hugely successful family planning program, which saw one of the most rapid fertility declines in the modern era. The rate of annual population growth in Thailand declined from over 3% in 1974 to 0.6% in 2005, and the average number of children per family fell from seven to under two. Mechai Viravaidya pioneered and championed many of Thailand’s social mobilization and community development efforts that are now taken for granted. Although much of his time was spent in the NGO sector, Mechai Viravaidya has also served in the Thai government as a Senator, in 1987 and again in 1997, and as a member of the cabinet during 1985-86 and 1991-92. As a Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister for Anand Panyarachun in 1991-92, Mechai Viravaidya was the chief architect in building Thailand’s comprehensive national HIV/AIDS prevention policy and program. This initiative is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding national efforts by any country in combating HIV/AIDS. By 2004, Thailand had experienced a 90% reduction in new HIV infections. In 2005, the World Bank reported that these preventative efforts helped save 7.7 million lives throughout the country and saved the government over US$18 billion in treatment costs alone. In recognition of his efforts Mechai Viravaidya was appointed the UNAIDS Ambassador in 1999.

Apart from his involvement in the government and the NGO sectors, Mechai Viravaidya has business and corporate experience as member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of many major corporations. He also served as trustee on the Board of many Universities and international organizations. For his efforts in various development endeavours, Mechai Viravaidya has been accorded numerous awards and recognitions including: the United Nations Gold Peace Medal (1981), the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1994), one of Asiaweek’s “20 Great Asians” (1995), the United Nations Population Award (1997), and one of TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” (2006). More recently, Mechai Viravaidya has been awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2007). Again, PDA and Mechai Viravaidya were the recipients of the Gates Award for Global Health in 2007, and are one of the Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship in 2008, both of which are awarded with a cash gift of one million US dollars.

 

 

Amazing Achievements…

Picture

Helen Keller, Samuel Morse and Christopher Columbus

Jonah, who is seven years old, came home from school one day last term and told us that he had to choose a person that had done something amazing in the world as part of his Amazing Achievements project.  He then had to research this person and put together a presentation for his classmates, their parents and visitors to the school in a few weeks time.  Bringing this task to the dinner table was interesting because as parents it is important to show an interest and to fully support your child in their school work but not to impose your own thoughts and ideas on the learning process.  It was vital that Jonah ‘owned’ the process and had the passion and enthusiasm to research and present on someone that he really aspired to.

Who would you choose for your amazing achievements project?  Who is your hero?

 

 

 

Of course my emotions and initial instincts tempted me to suggest the likes of: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi… but I resisted and we took the approach of brainstorming his interests and things he likes to read and find out more about before making a decision.  His list went something like this:

Inventing things, science, poetry, animals, helping people…

After taking these ideas on board I did publicly suggest my ideas around the table, ‘wouldn’t it be great to do Charles Darwin, Dr. Jane Goodall or even better Wilfred Owen – it is the 100th anniversary of WW1 – what a great connection.’  After explaining who these remarkable people were and why I thought they had contributed amazing achievements I was not getting much enthusiasm from Jonah.  Jonah’s mother then suggested that he actually think more locally and choose somebody related to Thailand and possibly someone that may even still be alive and could be involved in the research process (a great idea).  So we then considered:

Khun Lek (Elelphant Nature Park), Nancy Gibson (Love Wildlife Thailand) and Khun Mechai Viravaidya (The Bamboo School)*

*Posts to follow soon on each of these inspiring people and speakers

Jonah started to show more interest and liked the idea of being able to actually meet the person he was researching and presenting on and having primary information – possibly even involve them in his presentation as well!  By the end of (an extended) dinner time we had discussed a wide range of ideas and possibilities and left him with the weekend to make his final decision and to come up with someone who he wanted to do his project on.

With a little help from the iPad, Jonah finally came up with Samuel Morse as his amazing achievements person.  He was intrigued by Morse code and how it works, why it is used and how and why and when it was invented.  It had really caught his imagination and the more he read and the more he inquired the more he realised that Samuel Morse met most of his interests and passions.  I must admit at first I was not that impressed with his choice of person but soon realised as Jonah used his research (including an e-mail to and a reply from the Samuel Morse museum in the UK) that this was somebody that achieved a lot more than invent the Morse code, that there was a personal tragedy that motivated and ultimately urged him to help others and improve the world that he was living in at that time. I enjoyed learning through Jonah and being part of his amazing achievements project and was an immensely proud father when I got the chance to see his presentation.

This type of learning draws on personal emotions and encourages intrinsic drive and outcomes – ultimately creating amazing achievements for the young people that have been involved and supported through the process.

Click here to see Jonah’s blog about his amazing achievements project.

Click here to see a video of Jonah’s presentation.