By Rebecca Tinsley
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Novelist Rebecca Tinsley struggles with how to share Sudanese women's stories without spreading a sense of hopelessness. In the end she had their resilience to highlight, along with the transformational power of education.
If one theme emerges from my novel it is that educating women and girls is the key to a life free of negative traditional customs. Literacy is the best way to empower women, and we always underestimate both the need to educate women across the world and the immediate effect it has in improving lives. I have seen this for myself in the literacy project run by the charity I founded, Network for Africa, where Rwandan genocide survivors' lives are transformed when they can read and write.
The U.N. calculates that for every dollar you spend educating a girl you must spend $100 educating a boy to get the same positive effect. If we want smaller, healthier families and real economic development, our best investment is in female schooling.
For the female characters in "When the Stars Fall to Earth," and for the real women in Darfur and across Africa, the moment they access education is the point at which their lives change, their confidence grows and they take control of their future.
In refugee camps across the region, the women of Darfur are holding their families and societies together with slender arms. Their stories deserve to be told in a way that shows how much like us they are.
While we should certainly learn from the challenges they face and adapt any attempts to deliver development aid accordingly, we must not lose sight of their courageous female essence.
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Rebecca Tinsley is a human rights activist and founder of the charity Network for Africa. She is a former BBC journalist and has a law degree from the London School of Economics. Her novel "When the Stars Fall to Earth" is published by LandMarc.
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