To undermine our values, terrorists must resort to horrific acts of deplorable brutality. How advantageous that we need only give a girl a schoolbook for a proportionately horrified response.
The exponential effect of female empowerment ripples throughout a community and passes down generations. By the most tangible measurements, empowered women contribute to economic growth and population control. Through the latter, a balance is produced between the population and available resources creating lasting stability.
Inclusion of women in commercial enterprise generates larger and more lucrative markets, as well as a more competitive workforce. On a community level, this is the very foundation of economic development.
Beginning in 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (an independent U.S. foreign aid agency working towards reduction of global poverty) and the United States Agency for International Development embarked on an ambitious project to build 132 new schools in Burkina Faso. The schools were open to all children but had a specific focus on increasing female enrollment. The facilities were built in the ten provinces which had the worst performance regarding female attendance and achievement. It was in these locations that the BRIGHT project (Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed) would attain improbable and inspiring results.
The project addressed the needs specific to young women in the community, which had previously impeded their education. Young girls in Burkina Faso are often responsible for the care of younger siblings. In response, the program created kindergartens in the schools to look after the younger children while the school aged girls were in class.
Girls in these rural communities are typically tasked with the collection and preparation of food while boys are at school or at work. In order to have both siblings learn and eat, the program supplied meals at school as well as take-home rations. Soon playgrounds and adult literacy classes were added. The schools became almost like community centers.
An independent study by the American Economic Journal found that the BRIGHT program was a “successful strategy”. Enrollment for both males and females had increased, with female enrollment recorded at 5% higher than that of their male classmates. Test scores also increased.
This program helped both boys and girls, but female students were given additional consideration because of the unique role they play in their society. The men often go to work in the mines, leaving nearly all aspects of home life to the women. They tend crops, harvest them, cook, clean and raise the children. They are the heart of the family and the foundation of the community. Future generations will be molded by their knowledge, experience and expectations.
The ignorant ideology of extremism cannot be reconciled with even the smallest degree of dignity for women. This leaves an enormous population whose majority will always be at odds with the principles of terrorism. We have in this faction a powerful and influential ally. With the development of their potential, extremism could be diminished with each generation. This solution, coupled with economic development and increased opportunity, may prove the only enduring remedy to the contagion of terrorism.