Looking back over the past year, a moment that stands out is finishing my master’s degree in communication. This personal achievement would not have been possible without the support of family, friends and coworkers. But what I am truly grateful for is that I live in a country that supports the freedoms of women to be educated, live independently and support ourselves financially.
I’m guilty of taking this simple, yet powerful, freedom for granted. However, current events such as the Taliban’s attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old advocate for girls’ education who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, reminds me that access to education and financial independence is not an automatic right for many girls and women around the world. According to the World Bank, although the gender education gap is narrowing, in 2009 more than 35 million girls were not able to attend school. Research from the International Monetary Fund shows that educating girls leads to economic gains and increased productivity across the board – for both men and women – along with a host of other societal benefits, such as fewer HIV infections, lower mortality rates and reduction in sexual violence.
Education helped to me to land in a career I love. It’s a positive domino effect: my career finances my independence and satisfies my desire for achievement. This in turn makes me happier and more fulfilled. All of this is possible because I’ve been given the opportunity to learn – and for that I am grateful.