Today Malala Yousafzai sent a bold message to the world: I want every girl to be educated.
When the world heard about what happened to Malala, we came together in solidarity and support. This was not a random act. This was a targeted attack on a girl who was speaking in her own voice and on behalf of so many for a basic human right -- the right to go to school, to learn, to visualize and pursue the future she saw for herself.
Long before the October 2012 attempted assassination of Malala shocked the world, the teenage blogger from Swat Valley, Pakistan, was an activist. She wrote about life under the Taliban for BBC Urdu using the pen name Gul Makai, sharing the struggles of her family's fight for girls' education in her community.
What I've seen in my work around the world, and what research now bears true, is that denying a girl her education is denying her chance to a future. Education is empowerment. It leads to economic growth, improved health, reduces the risk of child marriage and increases the likelihood that girls will escape if they are threatened by physical abuse. And yet, today, this basic right is denied to 61 million children of primary school age, including 32 million girls. We simply cannot let this stand.
If we want to honor Malala, if we want to ensure that she did not endure tragedy in vain, we need to make her dream a reality. Today, we honor Malala's vision through the Malala Fund, her means to support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world.
Malala is a leader. She reminds us that leadership is not about title, position, or age. It's about the actions that you take and the decisions that you make on a daily basis. It's about values that endure, uncompromised. It's about conviction and sacrifice, about the resolve take risks if they bring you closer to the shared progress you envision.
Malala motivates other girls around the world to choose leadership, to recognize that they have a voice, a platform, and their message will be heard by a community of global advocates ready to take up their cause. She has spurred a movement that reaches around the world to bind people in rural towns and wired cities in a collective commitment to preserve every child's right to education.
When I met with Malala's father in Birmingham in December, he told me that Malala woke up to a flood of messages from girls all over the world. Many thanking her for her courage and telling her she should get the Nobel Prize for being a voice for girls.
Malala is ready to keep fighting, and so is the force behind her fund. We are a small group of committed individuals -- education entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers, business and tech leaders, engineers, innovators and NGO representatives -- who came together in late October 2012 to keep Malala's mission thriving while she recovers and rebuilds her strength.
We knew it was important to gather both financial resources and an innovative team from our multi-country, multi-disciplinary group to push to fulfill Malala's vision for all girls to be educated and empowered around the world.
This network of supporters, including UN Foundation's Girl Up, came together with Vital Voices to establish and manage the Malala Fund, which will give grants to organizations and individuals supporting girls' education in Pakistan and around the world. A core committee comprised of education experts and entrepreneurs, as well as the Yousafzai family and Malala herself, advises the fund and ensures we are channeling resources to reach the most girls in the safest way possible.
Today marks a new beginning. The work has only just begun. Join us and learn more, visit Malala Fund.