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Our Fathers, The Strident Feminists

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Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

My dad taught me to spit long distance. Lessons started when I was about 10. I was pretty good at it and understood it to be part of the process of setting up a good shot - as my dad also taught me how to track animals, handle a rifle, and in general survive in the wilderness on peanut butter and a gritty type of stubbornness that leads to things like lighting fires with flint and steel when perfectly good matches (or restaurants) are available.

My dad regrets the spitting lessons, which is a shame as I've found this skill extremely useful for long-distance running and when I was single, for lousy first dates.

But the truth is I learned as much from what my dad did not teach me. He didn't teach me that I was different from boys.

Forget about the biology of it for second (that was mom's job), my dad never let on that he thought there was a difference in when I could speak, how I could learn, what choices I should have or what I should be allowed to achieve and contribute with my life.

My dad never questioned that I would grow up to be his equal, to be the equal of my brothers. To my dad, my value as an equal to boys and men was a basic truth.

I was in my 20s when I realized this was unfortunately somewhat unusual. Recently, I was reminded again of this great gift when I watched Ziauddin Yousafzai speak about the journey he has shared with his daughter Malala. In 2012 Malala was targeted and shot in Pakistan on her school bus for her outspoken support of education for girls. Her father speaks eloquently about how having supported his daughter to stand up, he wondered after the attack if he was to blame. I imagine it was a very dark time.

Malala did more than survive. Less than a year after the attack, she spoke at the first ever Youth Takeover for Education at the United Nations in New York hosted by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and A World at School as part of the Education Countdown to get all children everywhere in school by 2015. Education champions old and new were moved by her bravery and eloquence. Her voice has helped the global education movement become even louder.

Malala's father, my dad and those fathers and brothers and uncles that share the view that their daughters and sisters and nieces are their equals - these men are at the sharp end of the feminist revolution.

Yes, the feminist revolution. That pernicious piece of unfinished business that is aimed at creating and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women - including in education and employment. The revolution underpinned by the very basic tenet that men and women should be treated as equals.

Ziauddin Yousafzai and men around the world are raising their daughters with a dogged acceptance of this as truth. And some of them are doing this against tremendous odds and with tremendous risks.

As such, these men are warriors - the front line in a struggle for the basic human rights of half the world's population. We will not get there without them.

Ziauddin says, 'What my father could not give to his sisters and to his daughters... I thought I must change it.'

New fathers everywhere are joining him in this simple, powerful effort and they are changing the world.

Kolleen Bouchane is the Director of Policy and Advocacy for A World At School and Director of Policy and Research for the Global Business Coalition for Education.

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