Women in Comparative Societies

Stones into Schools


Greg Mortenson

Mountaineer, Activist

An accidental activist, author

It could happen to you


Foreward by Khaled Hosseini

Author of The Kite Runner and a Thousand Splendid Suns

Lays out the problems in Afghanistan today


War in its 8th year (in 2010)

Rising conflict,  violent spiraling insurgency

Hampering rule of law, development efforts;


Record poppy crops (opium trade continuing to grow)

Extreme poverty




Lack of access to clean water


**Continuing problems with the status of women


Central government struggling to protect people, meet basic needs



Nearly 8.5 million children will attend school in Afghanistan this year

**40 percent of them girls


Mortenson, founder of 145 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan

No one has done more to advance the American cause in Afghanistan

Understands the ripple effects of education

Has shown the US military how to win hearts and minds (Three Cups of Tea required reading for officers today)


Greg’s philosophy:

The conflict in Afghanistan will be won with books, notebooks, and pencils:  the tools of socioeconomic well-being

“If Afghanistan has any chance to become a more prosperous nation, it will require the full engagement of its women as part of the process (xxii).”


Mortenson has faced death threats, fatwas from those to whom the idea of educating girls is blasphemy


How has he won them over?

Through building relationships

Relational organizing


Building trust, earning it

Understanding and participating in the culture

Courtesy, hospitality, respect for elders



Begins with story of Nasreen Baig

Her husband and three small children

Making journey from Pakistani village Zuudkhan to Rawalpindi

To fulfill her dream of becoming a maternal health care provider (birth attendant, midwife+)


Nasreen started attending one of first co-ed schools in N Pakistan

At age 5 in 1984

She excelled

1992, at age of 13, her mother died of pneumonia

She has to quit school to care for her blind father, four siblings


Father remarries; STEPMOTHER against education for girls

Would taunt her at night as she tried to study

“Women should work instead of reading books.  Books will poison your mind and you will become a worthless wife and mother.”


Maternal health care provider

Career she was exposed to as a child

Roving health teams would come to her village

She would look forward to her immunizations!!

Loved the smell of antiseptic, record keeping


She would do all the housework, care for siblings, then study till late in the night

Got her hs diploma in 1995 at 15

One of the first women from the Hunza region to do so


1999 she was offered a annual scholarship of $1200 and stipend from

Central Asia Institute

Would pay her tuition, room and board for 2 years to become a rural medical assistant

**maternal mortality in her region among the highest in the world


But, she was betrothed to a young man from nearby village

**Her MOTHER-IN-LAW didn’t want to be robbed of her labor

Upheld by tanzeem – council of elders


Life of near slavery

12-16 hour days tending goats and sheep in mountains, tilling potato fields, hauling water, gathering firewood and yak dung

Had three children and two miscarriages (all without medical attendant)



Kept her dream alive by caring for the elderly and sick


2007 – change in leadership at the tanzeem


She gets to go!!


Spends one year preparing, is now doing the 2 year degree but has opted to continue on to full OB-GYN nursing degree by 2012


Will move her family to Wakhan, one of the most isolated places on earth, to provide medical care

“Allah taught be the lesson of patience while also giving me the tools to truly understand what it means to live in poverty.  I do not regret the wait.”


Think of yourself, your pathway to study, to vocation, the career preparation.

Who encouraged you?  You discouraged you?  What obstacles stood/stand in your path?  Did you overcome them?


Rest of Chapter

Mortenson’s story

1993 attempt to climb K-2

Goes wrong; 72-hour rescue attempt

Ends up in Korphe, very weak and ill

Korphe: one in three children die before their first birthdays

Sees 82 children sitting in the dirt, no teacher, writing lessons in the dirt

Promised a girl he met there he would return and build them a school

Three Cups of Tea chronicles that odyssey and the evolution of the CAI


His life of travel and commitment today; public speaking


Stories of courageous, newly educated women CAI has helped to educate


Costs and Benefits of Educating Girls

$20 can educate a first grader for year

$340 can send a girl to 4 years of hs on full scholarship

$50,000 can build and outfit a school and pay teachers’ salaries for 5 years


World Bank:  just ONE year of primary school can increase a woman’s income 10-20% later in life


Yale Economist Paul T. Schulz:  one year of secondary school increases a girls lifetime wages by 15-25%


Where a majority of girls are educated through 5th grade

Infant mortality drops significantly in a single generation


Education for girls correlates perfectly with lower birth rate, lower population growth


More educated girls marry later, have fewer children


See also works by Amartya Sen and What Works in Girls’ Education:  Evidence and Policies from the Developing World by Barbara Herz and Gene B. Sperling




**The Girl Effect

Young women are the single biggest potential agents of change in the developing world

Tanzanian proverb:  “If you teach a boy, you educate an individual; but if you teach a girl, you educate a community”


A weapon against radical Islam

Someone seeking to participate in “jihad”

Seeks permission of mother; more educated women deny it


The Impact of Educating Girls  (pp. 401-403)

Income and Productivity

Increasing the share of women with secondary education by 1 percent boost per capita income by .3 percent

Educating girls boosts farming productivity

Educated farmers are more efficient, more productive, increased yields, decreases malnutrition


Maternal and Children’s Health

Educated women have smaller, healthier, better educated families

Brazil study:  literate woman has average of 2.5 children; illiterate 6 children

Lower infant mortality

Better nutrition and sanitation

Lower maternal mortality

Better earning capacity


Women’s Empowerment

Educated women are more likely to stand up for themselves, resist violence

Channel more of their resources into their children’s education and health

More likely to participate in political discussions, meetings, decision-making

Promote more efficient government, less corruption

Girls who become literate are more likely to teach their mothers to read and write

Women will ask their literate daughers to read them (the fish/meat wrapped in newspaper!!)