Daring. This is a word most people associate with jumping out of planes or difficult rescue missions, but 14-year old Malala Yousafzai is asking for an education -- and not just an education for herself, but also for the 32 million girls her age or younger in her country, Pakistan. But in a world where over half of the children out of primary school are girls, where two-thirds of the almost 800 million illiterate adults in the world are women and where one of the three most telling factors of whether a child will ever enroll or stay in school is gender, Malala is truly jumping out of planes and planning rescue missions. She is jumping out of planes when she blogs about atrocities toward women. She is planning rescue missions when she wears pink to school to stand out for girls' education. She is daring.
Malala's unfinished life story is one of resolve, sacrifice and fight -- fight for self and fight for others to obtain a safe, quality education. Her fight is our fight more than ever before because Malala knows, like we know, that education is a tool to combat gender discrimination, reduce poverty, raise healthy families, engage in entrepreneurism and promote security. We must raise our collective voices to call for change.
We need to stand with Malala and the many other women and girls worldwide who, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on October 10, "Some of whose names we will know and some we will never know, who struggle against tradition and culture and even outright hostility and sometime violence to pursue their hopes..." These are women who jump out of planes and plan rescue missions for education and a continued right to it. They are daring. Be daring with them and for them.
Our voices must amplify Malala's daring advocacy. We must support the millions of girls like Malala who both want and have the right to an education. We can start by getting our priorities straight. And we must take action or we will miss an opportunity to stand in solidarity with Malala at this key time in her struggle and that of young people everywhere.
Tom Friedman recently wrote in The New York Times: "How about we stop sending planes and tanks to a country where half the women and a quarter of the men can't read, and start sending scholarships instead?" Although he was speaking about Egypt, the question is equally valid for many other countries, including Pakistan. Compared to the $2 billion in annual military assistance that the US provides to Pakistan, the US funds available for educational initiatives in that country are less than one-tenth of this amount.
ACTION 1: Sign a petition to members of Congress to prioritize education in U.S. foreign assistance. Only when they hear the voices of people across the country and around the world, will our political leaders change our aid strategies.
ACTION 2: We can support the international educational initiatives of the NGO community. Specific actions in support of girls' education are available through the many coalition members of the Global Campaign for Education-US: Examples of actions and statements include: the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, AFT, NEA, Child Labor Coalition, RESULTS and promoting the upcoming film on girl's education by 10x10.
Let's tell Malala, her family and the others around the world who are struggling to make a quality education for all a reality, that we admire their daring spirit.
Follow Ed Gragert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@egragert