“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” ― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
A significant portion of females worldwide are lacking decent educational programs: almost two thirds of the world’s 792 million illiterate adults are women. In 47 out of 54 African countries, girls have less than a 50% chance of completing primary school. In sub-Saharan Africa, the gender gap widens significantly at the secondary level of education, where around six girls are enrolled for every ten boys. In Nigeria, out-of-school female children of primary school age are estimated to be 5,753,795 and the net enrolment rate for primary education has fallen from 67.1% from 2006 to 56.2% in 2010.
The intense studies aiming at assessing the state of education of women are the motives of formulating future policies for providing educational services for women. The whole society will reap much benefit by investing in educating women: every 1 percent increase in the proportion of women with secondary education boosted a country's annual per capita income growth rate by about 0.3 percentage points. Educated women are more likely to participate actively in political roles and also more capable of resisting violence and poor traditions like female genital mutilation. Educated women are also more competent in terms of maintaining proper health of their children.
A girl who emerged in Pakistan, where only 40% of Pakistani women over the age of 15 can read and write, understood the previous facts and tried to overcome the oppression and enlighten her society. Malala Yousafzai lived in Mingora, Swat in Pakistan, where Taliban used to prohibit girls from attending schools. Malala refused to succumb to the restrictions of Taliban and used to write articles for a BBC blog under a pseudonym, Gul Makai, at the age of 11. Malala described thoroughly the destructive practices of Taliban and how they intentionally targeted girls’ schools, the thing that hampered Malala’s education. Malala’s international fame is attributed to a documentary produced by New York Times starring Malala and her father Ziauddin describing the suffering of the Pakistani people of Swat, and how Malala aspired to be a politician to help her society to overcome its crises especially education. Malala was identified later to be the author of the articles published on the BBC blog.
Malala acted relentlessly to promote the case of education of girls both nationally and internationally. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and she managed to be the first winner of the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan. Despite her young age, she intended to set up the “Malala Education Foundation” whose mission is to aid the poor people of Pakistan to pursue their education. Malala was sinfully shot by Taliban assassin in her school bus, but luckily she received all sorts of care in Pakistan and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham where she continued her therapy and recovered without any brain insults.
The incident of Malala’s assault was met by worldwide rage and was condemned in Pakistan. Malala gained support from different politicians and was allowed to give her speech at the United Nations in 12 July 2013 - dubbed as Malala’s day - as a support of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, where she reiterated the importance of education for everyone “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
Malala’s activism contributed to improving the state of female education in Pakistan. In December 2013, UNESCO and Pakistan launched the Malala Fund for Girl’s Education which would provide support for new educational projects for the Pakistani girls. In February 2014, UNESCO commenced Malala Funds-In-Trust for Girls’ Education in Pakistan to support better access, improved quality and safe learning environments for girls in the hard-to-reach areas of Pakistan.
The whole world shall learn from Malala. She offered her people commitment and dedication and she courageously faced death in her endeavor for achieving the education for herself and her peers. Malala has made what leaders and politicians failed to in many decades with her patience and vigilance. Thanks to Malala, the world would be a better place!
By Ahmed Magdi Youssef.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics in EdStats, 2011
Key Messages and Data on Girls’ and Women’s Education and Literacy. UNESCO April 2012.
Women Deliver, Facts & Figures. Girls Education.
Global Education First Initiative. Malala Day.
The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. Malala Day.
Adam B. Ellick, Irfan Ashraf. Class Dismissed - The Death of Female Education. New York Times Documentary.
UNESCO launches Malala fund for girls’ education. Daily Times February 08, 2014.