This is not a brand new article, but it may be new to you.
Malala Yousafzai is a 19 year old woman who became a prominent human rights and education activist after she survived a Taliban assassination attempt in October, 2012. Why did the Taliban attempt assassination of a then 15 year old girl? Malala had started a campaign against the Taliban to fight their efforts at denying women education.
Since recovering, Malala founded the non-profit organization Malala Fund, and in 2013 co-authored I am Malala, an international bestseller. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured her as one of the most Influential people globally. In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In 2014, she was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. (Wikipedia)
Malala was awarded honorary Canadian citizenship by Premier Trudeau before addressing The House of Commons.
Malala’s recent speech at Parliament Hill was a plea for change regarding education for females across the world and Canada’s ability (and responsibility) to pave the way. Malala supported her concerns with the following statistics:
‘Here is what the statistics say. I am saying it for those who still do not accept education as important—there are some—but I hope they will hear this:
- If all girls went to school for 12 years, low- and middle-income countries would add $92 billion per year to their economies.
- Educated girls are less likely to marry young and contract HIV, and more likely to have healthy and educated children.
- The Brookings Institution called secondary education for girls as the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change.
- When a country gives all its children secondary education, it cuts its risk of war in half.
Education is vital for the security of the world because extremism grows alongside inequality in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice, no hope.’
It is absolutely impossible not to be inspired and humbled by this girl and her story, and her advocacy as a result. As a privileged Starbucks drinking, Lululemon wearing white girl born and raised in Canada, reading Ms. Yousafzia’s speech reminded me yet again about the realities of what is ‘hard’ in this world.
To not have the simple luxury of education, I cannot imagine. My parents always told me from a young age that there are people in the world who do not have the things that we do in Canada. As a 19-21 year old, I traveled a lot and witnessed that my parents, along with Unicef advertisements on TV, were not lying.
But to not have education? And now, as an adult female who engulfs herself in education, and feels she isn’t moving forward, not accomplishing, not progressing or challenging herself if she’s not involved in some kind of active learning… I just realize how lucky I am. How lucky the children of Canada are. Education is handed to them. And as teenagers we go to school, complain about it, skip class and are rude to our teachers.
Even something as simple as having access to internet that isn’t blocked or monitored (at least not the way other countries are monitored), opens up a whole world of free information. We have endless options and are encouraged to explore our ideas. Yes, post secondary is expensive, and that is a whole other topic for another post, but for the most part, education is available and obtainable in Canada.
Malala asked Canada to take the lead on female education and be an example for the rest of the world.
‘I stand with girls as someone who knows what it is like to flee your home and wonder if you will ever be able to go back to school. I stand with girls as someone who knows how it feels to have the right of education taken away and your dreams threatened. I know where I stand. If you stand with me, I ask you to seize every opportunity for girls’ education over the next year.
Dear Canada, I am asking you to lead once again:
- First, make girls’ education a central theme of your G7 Presidency next year.
- Second, use your influence to fill the global education funding gap to raise billions of dollars and save lives, when you hosted the global fund’s replenishment in Montreal last year. Show the same leadership for education.
- Host the upcoming replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education, bring all leaders together and raise new funding for girls to go to school. If Canada leads, I know the world will follow.
- Finally, prioritize 12 years of school for refugees. Today only a quarter of refugee children can get secondary education. We should not ask children who flee their homes to also give up their dreams. We must recognize that young refugees are future leaders on whom we all depend for peace.
The world needs leadership. The world needs leadership based on serving humanity, not based on how many weapons you have. Canada can take that lead.’
Of course I haven’t lived 32 years without recognizing that I take the ability to go to school for granted. I just feel like it hasn’t hit home the way it did while reading this young lady’s speech. Some would view her speech and call for action as feminism. I would hope that most would see it as an act of ‘humanism’.
Malala didn’t have to convince me. She just had to speak.
I stand with girls.