I come from four generations of college educated women. (Five if you count a two year teacher’s college.) I will be the first to admit that I am extremely biased about education for women. I simply cannot comprehend what it would be like to not be able to read. But for 23% of the world’s women, illiteracy is a fact of life.

There are a variety of reasons for this. In poorer countries, daughters are almost always the first ones to be pulled from school – or to be simply never sent at all. With literacy comes power. A woman who can read and write is more likely to know her rights and have more control in over her life.

In Afghanistan, only 12.6% of women are literate in comparison with 46% of men. (Circa 2000) But this does not stop these women. No matter their age, they still try to learn if given a small chance. It is especially moving to see that there is an entire “village council” that is composed entirely of women.

The fact that these women sign with their thumbs but wish to learn to write oddly enough reminds me of Charlemagne. He could not write and was forced to sign his signature with his thumb or seal, but he desperately wished to learn. Even though he acknowledge that he was probably too old to learn, he still kept a tablet under his pillow, hoping to at least learn to sign his name.

It just goes to show – you can’t stop the human spirit. Or the power of knowledge.

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Recently, an ulta Orthodox newspaper in Israel published a photograph of the new cabinet to exclude the two female members. Not only did they exclude them from the photograph, the two women were digitally replaced by two men. Somehow, the fact that taking them out was not enough seems to make this situation worse.

The official statement is that the editing was done to conserve the women’s modesty. However, since this is an official photograph of the new cabinet, both women are dressed fairly conservatively – much like the men in the same photo. Instead, it feels as if the Orthodox newspaper simply erased and re-wrote the accomplishments of the two women.