Artists or actors who work in film, theatre and television, are doing their bit to promote gender equality, but obstacles still remain. The gender pay gap persists and girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school due to external pressures. Some major barriers like these stand between their dreams. To eradicate this imbalance, celebrities are taking decisive action to accelerate women’s rights in the education sector.

Here are a few champions who are lending their support to the cause of gender equality in education.

Four-year PhD scholarship in Shah Rukh Khan’s name

Melbourne based La Trobe University has recently announced a scholarship in the name of superstar Shah Rukh Khan. The PhD Scholarship aims to inspire female researchers from India. The candidate will be funded a four-year research scholarship valued in excess of $200,000.

“Aligned to Shah Rukh Khan’s leadership on humanitarian and social justice causes, this prestigious four-year PhD scholarship aims to inspire a female researcher from India to undertake research to help find solutions to the growing challenges of our time.”

“Aligned to Shah Rukh Khan’s leadership on humanitarian and social justice causes, this prestigious four-year PhD scholarship aims to inspire a female researcher from India to undertake research to help find solutions to the growing challenges of our time. The scholarship is being introduced in recognition of Mr Khan’s dedication to women’s empowerment, through his Meer Foundation,” the University claimed.

“As a passionate advocate for women’s equality and empowerment, I am delighted that this scholarship will give an Indian woman a chance to pursue research in a field which is likely to lead her towards an exciting and a successful career. I thank the La Trobe university wholeheartedly for giving someone this wonderful opportunity,” SRK said while receiving an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) for his contributions and efforts towards underprivileged children and women’s empowerment through Meer Foundation besides his achievements in the Indian entertainment industry.

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson

Actress Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador since July 2014, is a humanitarian and advocates for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign in promoting gender equality.

Emma, 24, strongly promotes girls’ education for several years now and previously visited Bangladesh and Zambia as part of her humanitarian efforts. “Being asked to serve as UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador is truly humbling,” said the Harry Potter actress. “The chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity that everyone is given and is one I have no intention of taking lightly. Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting. I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience and awareness to this role.”

Also read: We need more women at the top: Twitter India Policy Head Mahima Kaul 

At this year’s World Children’s Day, UNICEF announced British actress Millie Bobby Brown to be its Goodwill Ambassador. The Stranger Things star is the youngest person to ever serve in the role at the age of just 14 years.

Millie Bobby Brown is changing the sector

At this year’s World Children’s Day, UNICEF announced British actress Millie Bobby Brown to be its Goodwill Ambassador. The Stranger Things star is the youngest person to ever serve in the role at the age of just 14 years.

The favourite star of millennials uses her platform to help eradicate bullying, caters to education, and child poverty. Millie has been a victim of bullying herself and in June she called out cyber bullying on Twitter.  As a Goodwill Ambassador, she aims to help make schools a safer, kinder, and more accessible place for kids to learn.

Priyanka Chopra campaigns for girls’ education

Back in 2014, Priyanka Chopra along with Freida Pinto launched a multi-level global campaign, ‘Girl Rising’, a documentary film featuring the two stars and seven other Bollywood actresses, to spread awareness about importance of girls’ education.

“I’ve been a part of the ‘Girl Rising’ campaign since its inception and am honoured to be able to bring this powerful idea to India. I am also extremely humbled by and grateful for the support from my colleagues in the industry.

“All it took was one phone call for me to have these amazing seven ladies to graciously agree to join us on this journey. If more girls are educated, all of India stands to gain. The Girl Rising campaign aims to address that through an innovative initiative that will not only help create awareness but also create a tangible platform to affect change,” said Priyanka who is a part of various charities and campaigns.

In 2010, Kapoor adopted the village of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh as part of NDTV’s Greenathon Campaign, to provide the village with a regular supply of electricity, and later took part in the international campaign, 1GOAL Education for All.

Kareena Kapoor saving a generation

The actress has been part of campaigns that promote children’s education and safety of women. In 2010, Kapoor adopted the village of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh as part of NDTV’s Greenathon Campaign, to provide the village with a regular supply of electricity, and later took part in the international campaign, 1GOAL Education for All. She was also the ambassador of Shakti Campaign. In 2014, she also made donations to the Kashmir flood relief.

Angelina Jolie helps girls receive education in Afghanistan

Academy Award-winning actor and co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, Angelina Jolie had sympathised with Afghan  girls back when she visited and donated a sum for education. She offered a donation for UNHCR to build a school for girls in Qalai Gudar which lies north of Kabul.

Angelina Jolie “is a generous and wonderful woman,” said 13-year-old Hameda, after graduating from the first grade. 

Her family came back to Afghanistan after being refugees next-door in Pakistan, Hameda was two years old then and accompanied by five brothers and sisters who attend the same school.

Since 1996, when the Taliban grabbed power in Afghanistan Afghan women have been fighting for their basic rights since then. The education for girls was banned and women were under severe repression, and denied the right to work.

Angelina Jolie, who has settled into being a single mom, is fighting for the fundamental rights of these women.

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya – is a school which is also funded and supported by Jolie and is known locally as the Angelina Jolie Primary School. It was set up by the UNHCR Special Envoy in 2002 to cater for girls with special protection needs.

Shabana Azmi

Vetran Shabana Azmi has been volunteering and championing for many causes, which includes education for girls and women. She dedicates her time in the village of Mijwan through the initiative the Mijwan Welfare Society that caters to the development of this village.

Among many other initiatives, the establishment runs Computer Training Centre, Kaifi Azmi Kanya Uchatar Madhyamik Vidyalaya (Higher Secondary School for Girls), Kanya Purva Madhyamik Vidyalaya (Primary School for Girls) and the Kaifi Azmi Sewing and Tailoring Centre for Women.

“This is not just an award, it’s my passport to freedom. On the basis of this. I will negotiate more space for myself.’ She made everybody take a vow that if there is pressure on any girl to get married before the age of 18, they would all go and do a dharna outside their homes.”

“It is the village where my father was born. I have seen the transformation that is taking place in that village. Girls used to come to class with sindoor on their forehead because they were married off by the time they were twelve. It was something both my father and I worked against. We had tried to explain it to them several times that it is illegal and their parents could be imprisoned. It didn’t make any difference. But because of the kind of information that they are getting in college, they along with their vice principal wrote a play against dowry and travelled to Jaipur for an inter-state competition. They got the first prize. A 15-year-old said, ‘This is not just an award, it’s my passport to freedom. On the basis of this. I will negotiate more space for myself.’ She made everybody take a vow that if there is pressure on any girl to get married before the age of 18, they would all go and do a dharna outside their homes.”

Shabana shares that the village has now transformed and in and around 40 villages near Mijwan girls don’t gets married before the age of 18. “How does this come about? It comes about with a mind-set change. As a nation, we are deeply embedded in a patriarchal structure, in which it is automatically assumed that a boy is privileged. We need to change that.”

READ: Meet Afghanistan’s First All-Female Orchestra – Zohra

Feature Image Credit: LaTrobe University

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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