The Importance of Girls’ Education: Recognizing Malala Yousafzai on National Women’s Day

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Katherine Cui, Reporter

Education is the single best hope for young girls facing conflict and  gender discrimination in impoverished countries. Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist fighting for access to education for young girls in every corner of the world. She is a leader despite the odds she faces for her gender, age and status. 

 

Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997, but her journey has made a cultural impact on young women everywhere. Pakistan’s population had a strong preference for male heirs. However, Malala’s father was determined to give her all possible opportunities for success. He ran a girls’ school in their village, where Malala began her education. It didn’t last for very long; the Taliban, an ultraconservative extremist group, took control of her town in 2008 and banned all girls from attending school. After some time, in 2012, Malala spoke out against the bans on behalf of the girls in her town. When living in an impoverished country like Pakistan, she argued education is the key to having a successful future and expanding one’s opportunities. Malala’s activism made her a target, and on her way home one day, a masked gunman boarded her bus and shot her in the head. Fortunately, she made a full recovery, and her family moved to the United Kingdom, where she was granted a second chance at life. This was when she knew she had to make a choice: she could either live a quiet, content life in a safe environment, or she could make use of her new opportunities. With the help of her ever-supportive father, she established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to helping every girl reach her full potential regardless of her story. 

 

As of 2022 Malala’s charity has raised a cumulative sum of $15.9 million, supporting 61 champions over 8 major countries, with plans to expand to two more countries, Bangladesh and Tanzania, in 2022. The “champions” are a part of the Malala Fund’s special Malala Fund Education Champion Network. They are distinguished people in various areas dedicated to implementing and pursuing ambitious projects to help advocate for local and national policy changes. This helps the organization to understand local issues better and implement the best projects to aid the area’s peoples. The fund has helped a total of more than 14 million students gain access to education, in school and remotely. Some of these students are able to tune into educational television programs, while others go to established schools in designated areas. The fund’s main focus is on girl’s education, focusing on why more than 130 million girls are out of school. Whether the obstacle be poverty, war, or gender discrimination, all countries have varying threats to girls’ education, and Malala Fund is working to give girls secondary education that can “transform communities, countries, and the world” (Malala Fund). Malala herself has also written multiple books, the most remarkable of which are the autobiography, I Am Malala, and the story collection, “We Are Displaced”. Both books go into detail about families uprooted by terrorism and the fight for girls’ education through her own experiences and those of many other girls. These books have made a massive impact, selling over 1.8 million copies worldwide. In 2015, the audio version of I Am Malala was nominated for and won the Grammy’s award for the Best Children’s Album. In many cases, Malala’s stories have inspired people of all statuses to contribute to helping children and their educational journey in poorer countries. Malala is also advocating for the girls in places such as Afghanistan, where terrorist groups like the Taliban are making it very difficult for girls to have access to education and leadership positions. In a recent interview with CBS Evening News, Malala discusses the ways in which the cruel rules that are set in place strip girls and women from speaking up for themselves in such a dangerous environment. Limiting these girls’ access to education subsequently limits their ability to make an impact in their countries. According to Malala, “they must believe in their voice. This is about your future, this is about your dignity, and this is about your human rights.” In recognition of her work, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 2014 and became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. 

 

From a rural town in Pakistan to the entire world, Malala has advocated for and made an impact on the lives and education of young children across the globe. Whether in founding and being the board chair for the Malala fund, writing books and starring in movies, or fighting for her strong belief, Malala will continue to make a difference in the world and young students’ lives, living by her quote: “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”

(Photo of Malala Yousafzai – New York Times)