In my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to intern as a social worker in a school located in an inner city. This was not my first time in an inner-city, as I had volunteered in various after-school programs in the past. However, it was the first time I experienced what I call ‘cultural humility.’ Entering into a culture that was unfamiliar to me and talking to single parents as a young female still in school with no children was just two of the many reminders that if I was going to be effective when working with students and their families, I first needed to let them know that I was there to listen, that I didn’t have all the answers, and that I may not fully understand their situation as a result of what I like to refer to as my ‘situatedness.’ I was not there to be a savior. I was there to empower. I was there to learn. I was there to give dignity to each person and student I encountered. As a result of listening and empowering students and/or their families to see themselves as the solution…bridges were built, relationships were formed, and positive progress was made toward students and their families breaking the cycle of poverty they found themselves in.
The concept of ‘cultural humility’ has continued to follow me… not only in my professional experience but also in my role as a graduate student. As I continue forming, processing, and re-forming my thesis, I recognize that my passion toward promoting education equality and empowering girls and boys to raise their voices and demonstrate their potential, it is again NOT about me. It’s not about conquering education inequality. It’s about giving dignity. Perhaps instead of seeing ‘helping’ as a moral obligation, we should view it as an opportunity. Perhaps our ‘help’ would serve others better if we stepped back, became friends with the people in the community, and listened. And then perhaps by listening, we would learn that it was not just about being patient for answers, but it was also about learning how to ask our questions better.
Malala Day is July 14, 2014. For those who may not know…Malala was targeted by the Taliban in 2012 and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus because of her refusal to be silenced and her continued fight for her right to an education. Miraculously, Malala survived and now continues her campaign for education.
Join me in raising our voices for education. Malala’s 17th birthday is July 14, 2014. To celebrate her wish for people to come together and raise their voices to defend each person’s basic right to education, I have set up a fundraising page. The funds raised will be used by The Malala Fund’s partners working in their local communities to support full realization of rights for all girls and boys around the world — including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Together we are #StrongerThan…