The right to education : still just a dream for many women

Rafea Solar Mama

Women’s right to education is still negotiated, restricted and fully controlled by men in some parts of today’s world

During a film screening hosted by the University of Luxembourg, local students and members of the public learnt that human rights are still just a dream for many women living in parts of Africa, Middle East and South America.

The film ‘‘Rafea: Solar Mama’’ tells the story of a Bedouin woman from Jordan who was offered the unique opportunity to study in India to become a solar engineer.
Highlighting the struggle for human rights and above all women’s rights to education, Rafea’s forbidden dream to become Jordan’s first solar engineer sees her encounter many barriers along the way especially from her unemployed husband and the conservative community where she originates from.

Drawing everyone’s attention to women from disadvantaged areas, with no skills and no education whatsoever, ‘‘Rafea: Solar Mama’’ comes to prove that despite cultural and linguistic differences, women from around the world are capable of showing solidarity to each other, encouraging one another to learn, fight and carry on.

While certain women wished they had another chance in life, the film also portrayed women giving up on their future, focusing solely on raising their families and following their husband’s wills.

The film takes western audiences out of their comfort zones

Rafea Solar Mama 1The film’s storyline definitely takes western audiences out of their comfort zone, displaying poverty, misery and lack of opportunities for such resourceful people, held back by the lack of information and their strong conservative views.

Every year, 80 women from all over the world travel to India to become solar engineers, as part of an educational programme designed to offer women financial means to raise their children and survive poverty.

“If we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is women”
— Desmond Tutu

Raising awareness on the importance of education and access to information for communities living in remote areas, the film is also successful in highlighting that once exposed to education and new skills, these women never give up. They become true pillars in the development of their communities and also take in charge the improvement of living conditions for their kids and extended families.

The film won the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) public price from Oxfam Novib in 2012 and was screened on January 28 in Luxembourg at the initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the University of Luxembourg and the Zonta Club Luxembourg.

It’s important to always remember human rights

Introducing the film, Luxembourg’s University President Rolf Tarrach spoke about the importance of always looking back and remembering human right and women’s right to education. He pointed out that today’s achievements are far from being enough.

Sharing his own experience with the audience, he argued that even in Luxembourg finding women in top management positions can sometimes be difficult. Making a reference to the current male-exclusive university board, he claimed to have completely failed in finding female board members, with relevant experience in education management, despites trying on a number of occasions.

Describing the film as being very ‘‘emotional’’ Peter Kok, Dutch Ambassador to the Grand Duchy, also delivered a short speech on the occasion, stating that human rights are on the top of the agenda for the Netherlands.

The film screening was followed by a public discussion on human rights and gender equality which was moderated by Professor emeritus Jean-Paul Lehners and Advocacy Chair of Zonta International, Florence Fischer-Herber.

This text was published under my name on Time for Equality.

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