Malala Youfsafzai, the internationally recognized activist for gender equality and female empowerment, recently completed her philosophy, politics, and economics degree at the University of Oxford. Her remarkable achievements have got the internet talking about what it means to be the presumed, less-capable gender in other countries and how upcoming technology can help shatter these unfair stereotypes.
From being raised in a humble Pakistani home who believed in defying age-old conventions, spearheading a daredevil fight against gender inequality at the age of 16, surviving a fatal headshot for protests against Taliban oppression, to winning a Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out for the rights and education of young women openly at a tender age of 17, Malala Youfsafzai is an inspiration not just for her valiant efforts but also because she is the voice of many girls across the globe.
Malala Youfsafzai unveils the power of “You”
This braveheart girl is an Oxford graduate today. On June 19, she posted a pic of herself on Instagram celebrating this not-so-typical achievement with a rather typical cake-on-face kind of commemoration. And much like any other fresh-out-of-college graduate, Malala Youfsafzai, too, has big dreams, and that is to continue fighting for women’s rights.
In 2006, TIME Magazine, much known for its annual issue of Person of the Year magazine cover and has featured the likes of Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump, and Malala Youfsafzai herself, received much adulation for naming “You” as Person of the Year. It acknowledged the power of the World Wide Web in bringing the world together and recognized the main driving force behind it – the users. A similar shift is happening now in the women’s movement.
COVID-19: A threat to the progress made so far
However, these hard-fought battles and the subsequent victories are under threat with COVID-19 tightening its grip. According to the United Nations, recently revealed 17 goals toward sustainable development, the pandemic could very well reverse all the progress made so far.
With extended school closures and increasing needs of the elderly at home, women are back to dealing with family issues and managing household chores. As many as 60 percent of women working in insecure labor markets are at immediate risk of losing their income and falling below the poverty line. All of this, along with the heightened risk of facing domestic violence amid forced lockdowns, are ruining the years of hard-earned progress by activists like Malala Youfsafzai.
Uganda’s appeal for school resumption
In fact, in an open letter to Ugandan President Museveni, an assistant professor from the Kabale University urged the government to consider re-opening the schools gradually as suspending them for prolonged periods is doing more harm than anticipated.
Museveni highlights in his letter the education inequalities exposed by COVID-19 and how school suspensions have disproportionately affected specific class, gender, and a group of people, where some even claim that girls in some villages are forced to get married amid no hopes of school resumption.
Bishop’s apparent support for gender inequality
And while that seems primitive enough for a 21st-century world led by activists like Malala Youfsafzai and Gloria Steinem, readers may be surprised to know that in a sermon conducted last year, Brazilian evangelical bishop and founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, openly advocated the idea of keeping girls uneducated for a happy and lasting marriage.
According to him, women, as the head of the family, are incapable of sustaining a marriage as they choose to serve themselves instead of supporting their husbands in serving God.
Nigeria tackling age-old rape culture
In Nigeria, the situation of gender inequality is even dire. Recently, the governors of 36 states declared a state of emergency following nationwide protests from women rights activists demanding justice for two aspiring female students whose lives were cut short because of gender-based violence.
Yes, life, as we know, can be brutally unfair sometimes. But often, it is the silence that has made us all complicit in the cover-up of morally incorrect activities for which our future generation will end paying the biggest price. And while it isn’t wrong to pin our hopes on young campaigners like Malala Youfsafzai, it shouldn’t deter us from playing our part in this generations-old fight.
Blockchain for a free and equal world
Mitch Rankin, the co-founder of English Forward, quite impactfully describes in his recent article what blockchain can do in a pandemic-ridden world where the greater struggle stems from the confusion and lack of leadership. According to him, blockchain technology does not discriminate against people of color, gender, race, or class.
Rather, it offers equally available access to anyone who seeks to become a part of this rapidly-growing ecosystem, which now boasts of students, teachers, administrators, and institutions.
Blockchain ecosystem envisions a future where students get an equal chance at education, safety, and opportunities, and thus overall success, despite the turbulent times. Along the lines of Malala Youfsafzai, blockchain, too, in its own distinctive way, is fighting to give back to girls what poverty, war, and discrimination tried to take away.
Bridging on- and off-chain worlds is not about one of the two sides being superior to the other. It is about combining the complementary features both sides offer to come up with something greater.