Standing With Malala on Education (Part 1)

Last Friday, in a highly anticipated appearance, Malala Yousafzai, the global girl leader from Pakistan, spoke at the United Nations. In doing so, she commemorated her 16th birthday, her first trip to the United States, and perhaps most significantly, Malala Day. As youth converged on the General Assembly in an unprecedented call for action, Malala spoke to bring attention to the global education emergency of 57 million girls and boys who do not have access to education. Malala was shot by the Taliban last fall for attending school.

Achieving universal primary education is a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and is now central to the post-2015 development agenda as well. In a two-part series, The InterDependent will look at how education and gender equality are factoring into post-2015 planning, along with the importance of Malala's speech. In Part 1, The InterDependent interviewed Amina Mohammed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special advisor on post-2015 development planning.

Mohammed is a member of the UN High-Level Panel (HLP), the recent report of which is shaping the successors to the MDGs. In this interview, Mohammed discussed Malala's significance and achieving MDG targets on education, as well as education and gender equality beyond 2015.

The ID: What does Malala Yousafzai mean to the international community?

Mohammed: Malala Yousafzai is a symbol of courage and determination in the fight against discrimination in education. She has sent a powerful message of hope and given a voice to the voiceless. Millions of young people are standing up with her for the right to education.

Her story has brought light to a silent but global education emergency. She has reminded the international community that 57 million children around the world are still out of school. Half of them live in conflict-affected countries. And about two-thirds are girls. The right to education is universal regardless of gender, income, origin or religious belief. Yet students, teachers and education facilities are the victims of repeated attacks.

Beyond access to education, the world is facing a major skills deficit, both in developing and developed countries. Nearly 250 million children of primary school age cannot read or write. Most of them leave the education system without the skills they need to find a job and fully participate in their society. These facts and figures are daunting, but remain a stark reality for too many children and young people worldwide.

Today's youth generation is the greatest our world has ever known. Malala has inspired them to speak up. Their demand is legitimate -- they want to, and have the right to, go to school, learn and thrive. The international community must be attentive and meet their demands. We cannot afford the cost of a lost generation. We have the responsibility of providing the building blocks for the future THEY want.

For the full interview, please visit The InterDependent.com.