Growing up, I remember my parents telling me “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.” This is a simple message that is intended to make one think about their actions, though for many of us, the message changes with age.
I recall a lecturer of mine once saying the word ‘should’ can be removed from our vocabulary. Often the word is negatively tied to ‘obligation’ and can shape our thought process in an unhealthy way. The word is also described as debilitating, disempowering or coercive by those who professionally dissect this particular word. In a personal experiment, I omitted the word ‘should’ from my speech for several years. True enough, I didn’t need it, or particularly miss it. It has crept back into my vocabulary in recent years, though I often strive to replace the word with empowering ones such as desire, choose or want.
Back in January, the site managers and I had a session where we dissected the words ‘can’ and ‘should’ in relation to perceptions about women and their ability to perform certain tasks, part of what I consider an ongoing conversation about gender roles. We considered how we can be more precise in their use, in order to reinforce the point that our work is all about giving people the chance to develop their talent in a supportive environment.
Whenever things get challenging here in Zambia, I remember this:
We CAN mold high school graduates into amazing primary school teachers. Higher education has incredible value, but throughout my life I have seen individuals do incredible things with determination alone. The guidance our teachers receive will undoubtedly remain with them and benefit them for years to come.
We CAN provide a better quality education than the alternatives that exist where Impact works. The technologies we provide are a definitive advantage of our model, but the support we provide and standards we set also play a major role.
We CAN shift perceived gender roles by building confidence in our scholars, empowering our teachers and maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination.
Whether or not you use the word ‘should’ is up you to decide. Impact Network has shown it CAN improve education for thousands of Zambian children and I am one of countless others that is grateful the organization has chosen to do so.