#MEET Challenging Gender Discrimination through Education - Changing Mindsets
This is a short interview we conducted with Sadaf Taimur, the creator of Challenging Gender Discrimination through Education - Changing Mindsets. If you like this project and would like to vote for it, click here.
1. Please, tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from and what is your background?
I am a 29-year-old educationist & human rights activist from Pakistan with an experience in education and development sector. Having studied Environmental Sciences & Education Planning & Management, I remained a member of Silver Oaks Schools & College System for 5 years. I am currently: (a) Managing Communications, Advocacy & Youth Mobilization at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)-Center of Education & Consciousness; (b) Working as Executive Director at Youth General Assembly (a social movement, to train & mobilize youth to work on UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda, which she co-founded) & (c) Working as an Advisory Mentor for Queen’s Young Leaders Program (UK).
As an educationist, I have co-authored original researches on educating for global citizenship & sustainable development that were presented in Japan, U.S.A. & Maldives. Additionally, I sit on Advisory Board of “Global Education Conference”, U.S.A. I have designed awareness building modules: “Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation” for Rural Development Center, Cameroon and “We Care” for Tanzania Youth Culture Exchange Network. I ran a team to design “Oakian Global Citizenship Program” for Silver Oaks. As a founding member, I positioned Global Research & Development Team for World Merit HQ (UK) and designed online surveys, for World Merit’s portal, to raise awareness regarding UN Sustainable Development Goals to sensitize 20,000+ young people. I am a consulting member at PAL network’s communication & advocacy working group (Tracking indicators for SDG-4, Target 4.7, in Pakistan). As G20 Global Changer, I was involved in proposing recommendations, on education & sustainable development, for G20 leaders which were presented at G20 Summit, 2017 (Germany). My social action projects were shortlisted by: UN-Women under Project Inspire competition & World Bank under Rethink Education competition.
I was acknowledged as an “Agent of Change” by World Merit HQ (UK), 2015 and selected & featured among the top 10 Youth Ambassadors in “A World at School” (UK) & ITA Education Youth Ambassadors’ Booklet, which was distributed at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I won GESS (Global Education Supplies & Solutions) Outstanding Contribution in Education for Sustainable Development Award, 2016 (Dubai) and then judged GESS awards for 2017. I got selected as Dalai Lama Fellow (U.S.A) to implement “compassion in action project”, to use education for alleviating gender inequality in Pakistan. I represented Pakistan: as Youth Delegate UNESCO-MGIEP at “UNESCO week for peace & sustainable development: role of education” (Canada) and as Youth Champion at Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative Incubator (U.S.A.). For UNLEASH, Denmark (as one of the unleashers) I am in the process of co-creating youth-led solutions (using education as a core tool), along with global talents from 165 countries, to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
I have been selected as a MEXT Scholar (2017) by the Japanese government. She will pursue her (M.Phill leading to Doctorate) research at University of Tokyo, in Sustainability Sciences – Educating for Sustainable Development & Global Citizenship, from September, 2017 .
2. Can you describe your idea or project in two sentences?
My project is about challenging gender discrimination through education. Under the pilot project, kids in formative years were targeted to go through a curriculum on "valuing inclusion & diversity". This will go a long way to deal with the issue of gender discriminatory mindset and hence transforming the gender discriminatory practices in future to achieve SDG-5.
3. How did you get your idea or concept?
I was born in Pakistan & grew up in an environment characterized by lack of opportunity for girls & women, poverty, crime and poor health service delivery. Belonging to a rural area of Pakistan, and being a girl child, it was a challenge to go for higher studies and I got married at a very early age (19 years). I had struggled a lot, to face resistance, during my life but giving up was not an option. These early experiences inculcated a spirit of hard work & social responsibility in me that has been responsible for my work towards human rights, women empowerment & sustainable development. While I bravely fought for what I wanted out of my life and that too for something as essential as education, I was constantly made to feel like a lesser being. Throughout my life, I have been told that my voice is somehow less important and I kept accepting it because this was not coming from somewhere outside, it was coming from my very own family.
Going through all these experiences, I realized that women in Pakistan are treated as second class citizens. As a human being, I was constantly denied from my own identity and considered as a product owned by my brother and father before marriage and then by my husband, afterward. While this was what I felt inside my house, what I felt outside was no different. Once I started working, I noticed how, despite being educated and having good degrees, people in Pakistan have a gender discriminatory mindset due to the patriarchal society. I always wanted to do something about the gender discriminatory mindset and women empowerment that is why, the first step I took, after getting married was to stand up for my two younger sisters and convince my parents to let them study and not to marry them off. Convincing them was a time taking and difficult process but eventually, I was successful. At that point in my life, I felt really happy and satisfied and realized that I want to work to improve the lives of women and girls. And I started doing that because I knew that “one leads from where one stands and one doesn’t need a powerful position to be a leader.” As a next step, I got selected as a Dalai Lama Fellow & under my Dalai Lama Fellowship’s compassion-in-action project, I chose women empowerment and alleviation of gender discrimination as a theme and my mentor (Bela Shah, from Dalai Lama Fellows team) helped me design this project. After three sessions of brainstorming, this idea was finalized. My project is now being implemented/sustained in Pakistan (16,000 + beneficiaries). Dalai Lama Fellowship is a transition pod that has not only helped me explore my potential but it has also provided me a platform that is helping me impact the society to help improve the lives of women by educating the society how to treat women properly and by empowering women. My project was further shortlisted for scaling as one of the semi-finalists by UN-Women under Project Inspire.
4. What is unique about your idea/project and how does it benefit mankind?
My idea is innovative in many ways:
(a) First of all, the project design followed human centered approach. This program was focused on activity based formal teaching of basic inner values linked to respect, acceptance, tolerance, equity, fairness, and equality. I believed that inculcating inner values will go a long way in solving gender equality problem without foreseeing any retaliation on account of being offensive for their culture/religion. (e.g. we should respect other human beings means respecting both men & women as every human being is equal).
(b) Through this project, I attempted to put my efforts to change mindsets. Changing mindsets will lead to change in behavior, which then will be reflected in actions. Actions, if ethical and safe, will help us build a secure world for women. This will definitely take additional time and effort to properly effect a change in mindset but this effect will be transformational and sustainable. It is important to change the mindset NOW because we need to achieve social justice and there is an urgency when it comes to gender equality. We now have a strong global pathway to achieving this equality through The Sustainable Development Goals.This is a global agreement which sets out an action plan to end gender inequality (Goal-5 is a key part of that plan). No substantial work has been done to inculcate the gender element in curriculum or creating a specific curriculum to address this cause (specifically for formative years).
(c) This program is very easy to replicate and has a long term impact because whatever is taught to the kids in their formative years gets amalgamated into their personalities.
5. Describe yourself as an entrepreneur in one sentence
I have co-founded a youth-led organization and created & implemented solutions, successfully, for many social/developmental challenges, that is why I consider myself as an entrepreneur.
6. How do you deal with people that doubt your abilities/initiatives?
I believe in the sentence: Listen to everyone but believe in yourself. If someone doubts my abilities, I usually listen to them and ignore what they say and stay positive. Then do what I want to do. Most of the times the results are positive and then I show these results to them, not to show that I was right (to prove a point) but to say that it is important to try before saying NO. Also, when I am unsuccessful, I usually go back to the drawing board and revisit what can be improved to make this initiative a success. GIVING UP IS NOT AN OPTION!
7. Where does your passion lie?
Bigger purposes and making a difference in the society always fascinated me and my passion is to bring change and put my efforts into developing the third world through education and working for sustainable development agenda.
8. What are you afraid of or what keeps you up at night?
I am usually afraid of the magnitude of social & developmental challenges we are facing right now and the fact that we have committed to Agenda 2030 (Global Goals), which has the deadline for achieving 17 goals by 2030. Most of the time I think about SDG 4 & 5, as they lie at the center of development and a lot need to be invested to achieve both of them, specifically in developing world. And remember without achieving gender equality or quality education, sustainable development is NOT possible. Many times, I keep awake at night thinking about what I can do to make SDGs a reality and how I can mobilize young people (with passion, hope & energy) to get engaged in making SDGs a reality. Long way to go!!
9. According to you, money is a synonym for.....
Fulfillment of basic needs for survival e.g. food, shelter, water, education etc.
10. If you could rid the world of three things, what would they be?
Inequalities in various forms
11. What are the benefits you take from the Entrepreneurship Campus?
I have taken the online courses offered by the Entrepreneurship Campus, which were very beneficial and practical. I learned a lot from them. Also, this is a very useful platform to provide an opportunity to youth to exchange wonderful ideas and successful projects. I have built some of my project proposals based on, the synergies I have created after, reading the ideas/projects on the Entrepreneurship Campus. This platform provides a unique opportunity to scale ideas, think openly and facilitate young people to make a difference in their societies.
12. What do you like more about the Entrepreneurship Campus?
The interface of the campus is really attractive and easy to understand. Also, I love the concept of keeping the project ideas open to all the people. Another amazing feature is that like minded people can connect through this platform and share their insights with each other. AMAZING PLATFORM INDEED!!!
13. Which idea/project do you like most?
The project which I liked the most: "Next Generation Educational Conscious Leadership Platform and Global Network"
14. Please, include a link to a video if you have one.
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