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It is fundamental to accept that we are all different and that even though we may be different, each of us has the same potential to bring something irreplaceable to society; we have the capability to improve our environment and the one of the people who surround us.

It would be normal for you to ask yourself what someone like me, a man, is doing working for women and girls’ rights to education, when it’s something that doesn’t directly affect me, when it is something that I could easily ignore and that I could benefit from the free path to success set out for my gender. Even though at first glance the consequences of an unequal world for men and women may not be apparent, exploring this issue has shown me the implications of inequality and their impact on other societal issues.

Historically, women have never had the rights and freedoms that they deserve, being treated as secondary or playing supporting roles to men, with their sole purpose being to make men’s lives easier. Having their roles determined for them and not having the freedom to stray from them, such as housework and raising children, with their sole responsibility being good mothers, good wives and good sisters. There are those however, who have broken the mold, who have fought against injustice, ignored the path that society had set out for them, have achieved greatness and made history. Marie Curie, Simone de Beauvoir, Frida Kahlo, Rigoberta Menchu, Diana, Princess of Wales – these are such women who are celebrated for their work, their fearless characters, their shameless personalities, their unprecedented strength. They are just a few of many such women, the vast majority of whom remain unknown to the world, those who received no recognition for their efforts and yet who fought just as hard and as tirelessly.

One of those determined women is my grand-mother, a free woman and one far ahead of her time.

The first defiance was when she fought to go to school, the second one was refusing to get married purely due to societal pressure and the third when she decided to travel. She learned about the world and chose her own destiny, her own path in life. She taught herself politics and became mayor of her city, refused to quit her job when she had a family and shaped generations of educated men and women for 40 years. Her free spirit and determination meant she never had to defend her position as a leading woman in the world. She was daughter, wife, mother, teacher, politician, grandmother; and above all she was, is and always will be a woman.

In El Salvador, as in many other countries, women have endured gender inequality for centuries. Many girls that could have been leaders and innovators were forced not to be. I believe that we have the moral responsibility of correcting this unfair past; we have to break open the doors that have been closed for the longest time. We need to create a population of active citizens, activists fighting for equal rights. To be more productive and grow as a nation we need to ensure that education is provided to both boys and girls.

The change towards equality will need the commitment of all members of society. We cannot keep following the Darwinist theory of survival of the fittest. The time is now to include every sector – the support of the private sector and the commitment of the political power.

The challenges of our era demand a high level of creativity, effort, work and synergies. The participation in political forums must be a national and international commitment to illustrate a common future, as it should’ve always been, where men and women work together to bring our country and our world forward.

This is why someone like me, a man, is working towards increasing women and girls’ rights to education.

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For more info on Ernesto: http://youngleadersfordev.org/author/ernesto-otero/

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