There was again lots of great conversation as delegates gathered for breakfast and settled in for this morning's keynote address.
|Saturday's breakfast in historic MacDonald Hall.|
|Kathleen (left) and Janis give out door prizes.|
|Kathleen gets help drawing prize winners.|
KeynoteSaturday's keynote by Dr. Lauryn Oates was a reminder of the fundamental value of literacy and a stirring call to action in support of vulnerable women and girls.
Lauryn is Programs Director for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. She plans, manages, monitors and evaluates programs that target improving literacy for women and girls in Afghanistan.
Early in her talk Lauryn connected her topic to libraries and literacy by quoting Dr. Seuss: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." She emphasized the importance of literacy for women and girls in Afghanistan (and other developing/post-conflict) states, not just for them but also for their families and communities. She noted, particularly, the strong positive connection between higher levels of education improved health, economic and social outcomes.
Lauryn also stated that the best predictor of a state's peacefulness is the status of women within the state.
Dr. Oates discussed challenges of development work in authoritarian and undemocratic states. She drew a comparison between how communities in democratic states can pressure their government verses the experience of communities in less free states. She offered a scenario where water accessed by a community has become contaminated. In a free, democratic state the community can pressure the government to fix the issue through protest, activism and media engagement (I thought of Flint, Michigan when she described this scenario). In undemocratic states, communities simply can't pressure the government for relief through these means.
So, the fundamental need in her mind for sustainable development is to not simply provide these communities with resources and expertise, but also with more freedom. Because, when people are free, they are free to solve their own problems.
|Dr. Lauryn Oates begins her keynote address.|
|Lauryn describes the impact of literacy on women and girls in Afghanistan|