Today is International Women’s Day.
“Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.” — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban in October of 2012, is not only an advocate for girls’ education, but also a prime example of the power of educating girls. Today is a good day to remind ourselves of the importance of educating all girls throughout the world.
Malala grew up with her two younger brothers in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan. Her father is a writer and educational activist and runs a chain of private schools. From an early age, her father made certain that his daughter was educated as well as her brothers.
When she was only 11 years old, Malala began writing a blog for the BBC about her life under the Taliban. At age 12, she was featured in a New York Times documentary as the Pakistani military pushed the Taliban out of her region. That led to numerous interviews for newspapers and television promoting education and human rights.
On the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2012, Malala’s school bus was stopped. A Taliban gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots. Fortunately for the world, he did not kill her. Instead, she became famous and beloved throughout the world.
Malala fought to regain her life. Her first public speech after the attack was on her 16th birthday. On that day she addressed the United Nations:
The following year she was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest ever Nobel laureate. That is the power of educating a girl! Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not being given any schooling at all—no reading, no writing, no math. They do not have the basic skills they need to become productive members of their communities.
We all know the importance of quality education to gaining employment as an adult. But the advantages of education for girls and women go beyond that. An educated woman not only has better employment opportunities, but she marries later and has fewer children. She can invest more time and money in caring for the children she does have. An educated woman understands the importance of good nutrition and how to provide it.
Better nutrition is one key for success in life and learning. The educated mother sends all her children to school, another key to creating successful, independent adults. Ultimately, entire communities benefit from educating all their children. Studies have even shown that educating girls as well as boys raises an entire country’s GDP.
Let’s spend a few minutes of International Women’s Day to call or email Sen. Steve Daines, Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Ryan Zinke. Tell them to support programs that educate all children. As Malala said, “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
Judy Zizzo is co-chair of the Missoula chapter of RESULTS, a national advocacy group dedicated to eradicating poverty through legislation. RESULTS (www.results.org) researches and promotes proven, cost-effective and accountable solutions for the pressing problems of the world’s poorest citizens. Zizzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.