Commemorating International Women’s Day in 2017, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated that “we will do justice to the world by promoting girls’ education as the single most powerful transformational force to improve lives and societies”.
There are a number of ways in which justice in society is measured, but they normally involve indicators about well-being, quality of life, and resource-sharing across all the different groups in a society. Partly this requires the rule of law but largely it needs a change in attitudes and behaviours. It also implies an understanding of life as not simply the absence of death, just as peace is not simply the absence of violence. Viewing girls’ education through this lens means going beyond even the commendable and ambitious commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals (such as Goal 4 on the universal provision of quality education). It means ending discrimination against girls who go to school, and those who teach them.
Girls’ education is therefore both a social justice goal and a means towards social justice. This is what motivated IGBS headteacher Vicky Dratia to work at the school. Vicky writes: “my love and passion for justice towards vulnerable and disadvantaged people is what made me choose to come and teach at Ibba Girls’ School. When I learned about the school, I decided to be part of the change. I am very happy to be able to work with the girls and their families and to encourage them to remain in school until they complete their education, despite domestic opportunities. This is my contribution to humanity.”
Vicky’s words highlight how important girls’ education is not only as a goal of social justice but as a means towards it. By creating a quality learning environment and enabling girls not only to advocate for their rights but to work for the changes in attitudes and behaviours to which their education attests and for which their education prepares them, Ibba Girls’ Boarding School is enabling South Sudan to be more socially just.
Mark Simmons, FIGS CEO, February 2019