17-year-old Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration. At age 15, she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she wanted an education for her and every other girl in Pakistan. She defied all odds and survived the ordeal. The Taliban took away her freedom to live in Pakistan, but her fight for the right to educate the 65 million girls who are neither in primary school or secondary school around the world still lives on.
At 16 years of age, she spoke to nearly 1000 delegates at the United Nations’ Youth Assembly and the Secretary General of the UN proclaimed that day to be Malala Day.
‘So here I stand… one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: their right to live in peace; their right to be treated with dignity; their right to equality of opportunity; their right to be educated.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.
So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons.
Our child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
In 2013, Malala became the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
It ‘s a reminder that our girls in the developed world are lucky. It is sometimes hard to imagine that there are millions and millions of girls around the world that don’t have the opportunity to go to school. Childhood marriage, poverty, discrimination and violence contribute to girls missing out on school, 94 per cent in developing countries. In the developing world, 42 per cent of girls are not enrolled in school. In Africa alone, only 46 per cent of girls finish primary school.
Educating a girl is one of the fundamental steps to a country’s economic stability. For every additional year of education the adult population has, a country’s economic growth will increase by 3.7 per cent.
What are the benefits of educating our girls?
- More than 14 million girls give birth to their first child between the age of 15 and 19 years increasing the chance of infant and maternal mortality – with an education, girls marry later and have their first child later, educated women are also more likely to seek prenatal and post natal care and give birth in hospitals which decreases maternal and infant mortality rates. They also have smaller families.
- If a girl is educated, her family income increases- providing a girl with one extra year of education beyond the average boosts her future wages by 20 per cent. She spends 90 per cent of her income on her family (as opposed to 30-40 per cent for men), thus standards of living and access to resources increase and malnutrition rates among children decrease.
- The more educated a mother, the healthier her family will be – educated women are half as likely to contract HIV/AIDS, 50 per cent more likely to immunize their children and contribute to more productive farming resulting in a decrease in malnutrition among children. A child born to a literate women is twice as likely to survive past the age of 5.
- Educated mothers are more likely to educate their daughters and so the cycle continues….
It is heartwarming to know there are inspirational young leaders, such a Malala fighting for the right to educate girl’s worldwide.
Malala’s book, I am Malala is an inspiring, educational and sometimes harrowing read about her journey to what she has become and her fight for girls to be educated. Just last week, she released her book written for younger readers. Even early readers can be part of the Malala joy with the book, Every Day is Malala Day – a collection of girls around the world show their support for Malala through a simple book with the complex issues that face many millions of girls – highly worth a read to your girls to empower them to empathise with the millions of girls who have no access to education around the world.