Not often does it fall to individuals to be a part of history in the making. For the few who are given that privilege, its true value can only be estimated only in hindsight. Four years later, at the moment of her execution, she cried “You can kill me as soon as you like but you cannot stop the emancipation of women”.
One and a half centuries later, and a decade into a new millennium, I pause to remember Tahireh, and all those men and women since, who have kept the flame of her cause burning brightly down all the years and passed this torch on to our generation here today; another people, another land, another century. In my mind they remain with us, and will continue to inspire and guide us just as we too must inspire and guide the generations still to come.
The Connection between Education and Emancipation
In the globally disseminated statement “The Promise of World Peace” the Universal House of Justice describes the important connection between education and discrimination, stating “…ignorance is indisputably the principal reason…for the perpetuation of prejudice.”
More and more we realize that if we are to change the cruel, destructive ways in which human beings treat one another, we must first change the way they think, and the things they value. Highlighting the supreme urgency of re-educating the souls and minds of humanity, H. G. Wells said “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
A crucial aspect of this keystone Oslo education which is necessary if we are to avert catastrophe and bring balance to the present state of disequilibrium, and which will eventually contribute to a new definition of humanity, is the process which some have called the ‘feminization’ of the planet.
True Education Creates Enduring Change
The real value of education lies in how it permanently changes our behavior and our thoughts. Professor B. F. Skinner offers this definition; “Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.” People can learn to behave in outwardly politically correct ways, but the real challenge is to so internalize new values that they become an inseparable part of the individual. This is what Baha’u’llah asks of us when He calls for us to become “a new race of men.” Steven Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says “What we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.” How you behave in your day-to-day life is a truer indication of your inner beliefs than are the words you speak. For this reason we need to focus upon our deeds rather than our words. Baha’u’llah says “The reality of man is his thought, not his material body”. In seeking to promote the advancement of women, we need to retrain thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and values. We need to do this for ourselves as individuals, but we also seek to influence others at every level of our personal and collective lives.
An earlier quotation from ‘The Promise’ described how inequality promotes harmful attitudes and habits which men carry with them into all spheres of life. It continues by saying “Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge” and in the subsequent paragraph states “…it is through educated mothers that the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused throughout society.”
Here then are two key factors in the education and feminization of our society;
* The education of women which will enable them to participate equally in all fields of human endeavor and in doing so become in themselves a source of education; a ‘feminizing influence’ to others
* The crucial role played by women in the education of the coming generation
The Education of Men is Crucial to True Equality
It is impossible to consider the issue of the advancement of women as belonging to women alone. In fact the Universal House of Justice states it is an issue that men too must own;
“It is important to acknowledge that the wellbeing and advancement of men is impossible as long as women remain disadvantaged. Men cannot be happy whilst women are oppressed, and neither can they hope to remain unaffected by the changes women are making for themselves. The growth and development of women needs to be balanced by complementary growth and development on the part of men.”