At International Women’s Day: Embracing Equity for a Better World

By Ana Tenorio, Global Education Director

If you stop to think about it, there is a woman in your life that shaped your life in significant ways. My mother, Nelly Tenorio, was a dedicated teacher that changed the lives of many children and youth. Her funeral was filled with former students that shared many stories of transformation. From detecting dyslexia and helping a child to learn to read when many others have given up to her being on the phone late at night helping students that needed extra support and encouragement.

My mother shaped deeply who I am as a person but I also think of many women who have shaped this world in a positive way.  Judy Heumman, called the mother of the disabilities rights movement in the US, died three days ago but her legacy endures.  Judy lost her ability to walk at age 2. Her mother tried to sign her up for kindergarten a few years later, but the school’s principal refused to admit her describing her and her wheelchair as a fire hazard.   At age 9, she was finally permitted to enrol in school but taught in the school’s basement alongside other students with disabilities. Heumann went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre followed by a master’s degree in public health.  Judy’s leadership was instrumental in the passing of the Americans Disabilities Act which mandated access to Education for all people with disabilities in the US.

Similar to Judy, we can think of Marie Curie, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Malala Yousafzai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more women who exhibit courage, love, and action for the betterment of humanity. They are a testament of the importance to achieve women’s right to education.

Unfortunately, the reality is that 129 million girls are out of school globally including 32 million of primary school age and 97 million of secondary school age.[1]  While enrolment rates are similar to boys, completion rates for girls are lower in low-income countries. And the gaps are wider in countries affected by conflict and disasters where girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys. We know, however, that attention must be paid not only to access but to the quality of girls’ experiences in school that lead to learning.[2] 

Disparities for women do not end with Education, 60% of the world’s people with chronic hunger are women and girls. Anaemia is a leading cause of death for pregnant teenagers and the leading cause of disability for adolescent girls which raises barriers to achieve education and fullness of life.

This is why in World Vision we fully #Embrace Equity. We understand that equal opportunities are not enough. Each individual starts from a different place. For true inclusion to happen we need to address barriers that prevent achieving equitable outcomes for all.

The data is sobering, we MUST address gender inequities and I am proud to say that World Vision is committed to do this. In FY22 alone, World Vision reached 2.8 million adults acquiring Education of which 54% were women and 22,000 were women with a disability.     

We have led initiatives that break down barriers to literacy for girls applying innovative Edtech solutions. In Rwanda, World Vision is supporting girls and their mothers to break inter-generational cycles of illiteracy and inequity.   In India, were about 12% of children between age 5 and 14 are engaged in hazardous child labour, World Vision is enabling girls to complete Education despite disruptions to Education caused by COVID.

 At International Women’s Day let’s Embrace Equity in all its meaning. Let’s think about what that means in your community, in your work and in your family.  Let’s learn from Judy Heumman’s words: “Some people say that what I did changed the world. But really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it.” 

As World Vision we also refuse to accept gender inequity. We will continue to make a fuss about it but, most importantly, we will continue to address gender inequity in all that we do.


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[2] Subrahmanian 2005; Cin and Walker 2016; Unterhalter 2016, 2017a, 2017b; Monkman 2021