Shortly before I last left Sudan I was asked:
“Why do you teach women at these courses? There are so many women in Sudan and they are such a big problem. They all want to go on training courses and then when they have finished, they go and get married and have children. They will never do anything with the things you teach them.”
This question irritated me. It is true that all of the women that I have met are interested in bettering themselves and that education is invariably seen as the route to a better life. It is true that the vast majority of these women will get married and have children. I have seen no evidence that they do nothing with what they have learnt.
Hillary Clinton said:
“If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. But you teach a woman to fish and she’ll feed the whole village.”
From what I have seen, that is far closer to the truth.
Of the eight Aquatic Survival Programme Instructors selected to become Master Instructors, six are women. The criteria for selection was excellence in cascading the basic water safety messages to their communities.
At least half of the woman who attended the female lifeguard courses had attended university to become teachers and now worked as swimming coaches. They were already passing on vital skills to others. They wanted to become lifeguards so that they could provide more women with safe swimming pools to learn what they considered to be a vital life skill that many Sudanese women do not possess.
It has been shown by international development reports across the world that the way to improve the lives of children is by improving the education and the lives of their mothers. Women reinvest heavily in their families and in their communities. Furthermore, in a society that is segregated based on gender, water safety and drowning prevention messages will never reach everyone if half of the population are excluded from the lessons that we teach. Sudan is changing and we have seen time and again that those changes are being driven by strong and determined women who have been given the tools to make a difference to those around them.
That is why we teach women.