Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school, turned 16 today. To mark the date, which will henceforth be known as Malala Day, she addressed the UN about violence against women and education as a universal right – especially for girls. Today, in her first public appearance since being shot, she was joined by 500 students from more than 80 countries at a unique Youth Assembly at the UN where she pressed leaders to do more to advance education around the world. Malala has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and is the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Stand with Malala and sign this petition to demand education as a universal right for every child in the world!
On October 9, 2012, Taliban gunmen shot Malala, in addition to many of her friends, on her school bus following her campaign for girls’ rights. In the days that followed her attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but eventually improved enough to be sent to a hospital in the United Kingdom for intensive rehabilitation. Though a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, the Taliban is still intent on killing the young girl and her father.
In response to Malala’s attack, as well as in support of her fight for girls’ rights and education, former British Prime Minister and current U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in Malala’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Brown said he would hand the petition to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari in November.
As it stands, there are more young people in the world today than ever before in history. And there are 57 million children not attending primary school, many of whom live in countries in conflict. More than 120 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 (the majority of whom are young women) lack basic reading and writing skills. Malala’s native Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, and an additional 7 million adolescents out of school.Around 5.4 million children of primary school age don’t get an education, according to the latest statistics from UNESCO.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reminds us that when women and girls are educated, they accelerate development in their families and communities. “Education is the pathway to saving lives, building peace and empowering young people,” says Ki-Moon. This is the lesson that Malala is teaching today.