When I was little, there were not many female role models, “successful” women were either “the wife of” or actresses or singers... Fortunately, in this day and age, that is beginning to change. It is extremely important that both boys and girls have role models in all areas, that they have the chance to see in others what they would like to become and that they can be inspired by them. That is why we are missing female role models; now I’m not saying that there aren’t any, on the contrary, I know there are, what I mean is we need to name them and give them the spotlight they deserve.
If I use sport as an example, then girls have role models they can look up to. But there is more: politics is also an area where we are seeing more female role models. We are getting used to seeing them at the head of governments, such as Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand and a leading figure in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, or Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland. Thankfully we also hear about engineers, businesswomen, writers, etc. We are walking down the right path and we cannot stop. In this day and age, girls, just like boys, must have role models in all professional fields.
In my case there are two female role models who inspire me and move me. When I tell you who they are you might well think they are complete opposites to one and other, but for me they embody the role of ideal teacher and student. The first one is Malala Yousafzai, the youngest woman to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize when she was just 17 years old, for her fierce fight for women’s education and civil rights. The second one is Carme Cervelló, my French teacher, who has built her life around teaching.
I will start with Malala. She was born in 1997 in Mingora, a city in Pakistan, and at the age of 12 she began to detail what her life was like under the Taliban regime. She did this on her blog on the BBC and under a pen name; there, she explained that girls were banned from going to school which made her become an activist defending her right to education. At the age of 15 she survived an attempt on her life, but not even that was enough to stop her from achieving her objective: fighting to defend the civil rights of all women around the world. I encourage you to follow her work on Malala Fund. For me, Malala is the best example of a student who truly values education and learning as a tool to personal freedom, a fact that put her life at risk.
On the other side of the coin, we have Carme Cervelló, who was my French teacher. When I was little, I wanted to learn German, but my father told me that I couldn’t do that until I learnt French. And so, with as little motivation as possible, I started learning a language that I didn’t want to. However, to my surprise, I was lucky to come across an angel that taught French with unbridled passion. Carme was a woman with character, but she also possessed an overwhelming love of the French language and a dedication to her students that went beyond the classroom. What was most important to her was that her students learn, and she constantly demanded the most from us, because she genuinely wanted the best for her éleves (students in French). Our success, that of her students, was her success. Carme Cervelló lived to teach French, devoting her life to those who entered her classroom (I had seen her correcting the essays she had made us write whilst on her lunch break). I remember and will always remember her because I carry her in my heart, and because a teacher cannot be important to you if you are not important to them. Carme certainly made me feel that my progress was important to her and, as a result, that I was important to her. Years later, she was the first person who gave me the opportunity to become an English teacher in her school; it was thanks to her that I learnt the meaning of effort, absolute dedication, and commitment to those families who entrust their children to you and to the students who invest their limited time to learn with you. I have only words of gratitude for her, both from my time as a student and as a teacher in her school. And just in case you were wondering... Yes, years later I started to learn German.
Malala and Carme represent the importance of learning and teaching, and in turn they represent students and teachers. When two people like that meet, one who is highly motivated to learn and another who is highly motivated to teach, that is when magic happens. For me they are two magical women: Malala, who risked her life to learn and who manages to inspire children and young people who do not value education or who take it for granted, and Carme, who lived to teach and who inspired all of us who have the privilege and responsibility to teach and educate.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us who is the woman who has had the biggest impact on your life!