On November 10th, the first "Malala Day" will be marked by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown traveling to Pakistan to present over 1 million signatures to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, calling for a plan to enable education for its nearly 5 million out-of-school children. While this trip is tremendously meaningful in its individual significance, it is a powerful indicator of the times we live within and hopefully the beginning of a new era in global education.
There are currently 61 million children living without access to school around the globe, and approximately 32 million of these are girls. Malala Yousafzai is the 15-year-old girl who bravely stood in contradiction to these realities, demanding equality for young girls by starting as a blogger at the age of 12. Her internet identity gained her prominence in a much broader movement, but it wasn't until an assassination attempt weeks ago where she was shot in the head and neck while on her school bus returning home that her story became international news.
Can you imagine if this happened to your child? Shot in the head while on a school bus for having the audacity to attend school? I don't believe this action taken by grown men in the Taliban was driven by hatred, but more so by fear.
The reality is that education is denied because it enables opportunity. It provides choice, freedom and the ability to dictate one's own path. It is the strongest social investment one can make, however the landscape of global education has never been as well organized as spaces like global health and domestic education (extremely important causes though). So we live in a world in which a tremendously solvable problem remains unsolved. We have every resource necessary to provide access to education for every child on the planet, we just need to commit to enabling it. I believe the tide is now shifting, as backed by a recent Brookings Institute Report stating how there has Never Been a Better Time for Philanthropists in Global Education.
The 61 million will reach near zero through a combination of direct services, innovation and technology, and large-scale policy reform. There is a vast network of local and international NGO's working to provide greater school infrastructures, well-trained teachers, student scholarships and holistic community development programs. Increases in entrepreneurial investments will lead to greater technological capabilities to reach even the most remote students. But without policy reform coming from the top to meet these bottoms-up programs, children will remain without educational opportunity.
World leaders must be held to accountable to playing their part in attaining the Millenium Development Goals, in particular MDG 2 and 3 calling for Universal Primary Education and Gender Equality. Fortunately, we now have incredible allies through the UN Secretary General's Education First intiative and Gordon and Sarah Brown who are spearheading the #IamMalala campaign to hold Pakistan responsible for attaining these goals.
For any movement to gain momentum, it must start with a small action. This action becomes multiplied by the masses, and is made tangible when leadership changes course due to the weight of the movement's voice.
Malala started by posting her beliefs on the internet. You now have the opportunity to join her, to make her sacrifices heard by doing something as small as signing her petition at http://iammalala.org and using the hashtag #iammalala on November 10th.
The voices of the people are what has always forced leaders to change course. This will be demonstrated when we call upon the president of Pakistan to create a cohesive plan to bring millions into school. The journey does not end there, but it is a meaningful step towards progress.
The tides are turning, I hope you will join us.
This blog is part of a series called "Malala's Impact," which highlights the need for global education. The series is launched in partnership with the Global Day of Action for Malala campaign, which takes place on November 10.