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Teenage Advocate for Girls’ Education Honored at United Nations
Highlights from Malala Yousafzai's words at the U.N. headquarters in New York last Friday. See the whole speech here.
The United Nations declared last Friday “Malala Day” in honor of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani student and education advocate who was shot in the head by a Taliban operative last October for what the terrorist organization called “promoting Western thinking.” Malala began promulgating her views on education for girls and sharing stories from her life under Taliban rule at the age of 11 via a BBC blog. After she recovered from the shooting, Malala has emerged an even stronger and more articulate representative of the global movement for girls’ education. On Friday, July 12 -- her 16th birthday -- she made an emphatic appeal (view highlights above) to the United Nations General Assembly, urging member states to redouble their commitments to equal education and challenging other advocates to “pick up [their] books and pens” in peaceful protest.
U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently launched a U.N. petition in Yousafzai’s name, using the slogan "I am Malala" to galvanize momentum toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education by the end of 2015.
Improvements in education and progress against hunger are closely correlated. It seems obvious that students with consistent access to nutritious food will go further in their education – and research suggests that the benefits flow the other direction as well. Analysts at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looked back at the years 1970-1995, a period of significant reductions in child malnutrition. What made this progress possible? A larger supply of food available per person seems like a good explanation, and this was in fact something that helped. But the IFPRI analysis found that it was responsible for only about 26 percent of the improvement. Gains in women’s education explained 43 percent of it.
Sending girls to school was more effective in reducing child malnutrition than having more food available. Why? It’s largely because worldwide, women carry the major responsibility for providing for their families. Conditions that interfere with women’s ability to earn a living – such as lack of education -- contribute directly to hunger and disease among their children, both boys and girls.
According to the latest MDG progress chart, most of the world is not on track to meet the education goal. Malala and other advocates for girls’ education across the world know this. They realize that despite their best efforts, advancement will depend on the commitment of national governments to making it a top priority and on unwavering advocacy from the international community.
Let's renew our commitment to bringing change to the lives of the estimated 35 million girls of primary school age who still do not attend school. Their futures, and their children's futures, and in many ways their countries' futures, depend on getting into a classroom.
You can read more about the relationship between women’s education, ending hunger, and achieving the other MDGs in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals.
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