Education is imperative in developing countries, but even more so for women and young girls. Females are not as valued in many countries across the Middle East, where regions are dominated by radicals. They experience immense pressure and attacks against them and their families for merely seeking to go school.
One case in particular is Malala Yousafzai. In an attempt to protect her identity, Malala, then 11 years-old, submitted blog entries in 2009 to the BBC detailing the oppression under the Taliban's rule in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Months after exposing the radical group, Malala was shot in the face by members of the Taliban as she rode home on her school bus.
Malala gained world-wide media attention for her activism and has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the International Children's Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and won Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.
Today marks Malala's 16th birthday and she is celebrating it by spearheading a United Nations effort to prioritize education through Plan International and others.
"She has become iconic in representing many girls' difficult struggle to obtain their rightful education. But there are millions of 'other Malalas' across the world -0 a whole generation of girls and boys who are excluded daily from learning by violence, discrimination or harmful traditional practices. This momentous takeover day is about standing together and ensuring that their voices are heard," says Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman.
Plan International currently runs a global campaign called Because I am a Girl, which highlights barriers such as child marriage and gender-based violence in and around schools where the Taliban presence is most prominent. According to Plan, approximately 1 out of every 3 girls worldwide are denied an education due to violence, discrimination, poverty and practices such as child marriage.
Malala will take to the podium today in New York to speak on behalf of women and girls who find themselves under the Taliban's rule. She aims to expose the group while giving 650 attendants, from 15 countries, hope for a better future. She will also urge governments to strengthen policies allowing millions of girls and boys to return to school. This marks her first major public appearance since her attack.
"Education for girls is essential," says 18 year-old Humaira from Pakistan. "They become aware and can learn life skills. In hard times, they can earn a livelihood and help support their family."
The UN youth collective is calling for urgent action by member states to ensure they meet Millennium Development Goal 2 on education by 2015. Their inputs will also then feed into setting the agenda for global education priorities post-2015.
"The passing of a historic youth resolution in the UN General Assembly is an important opportunity to call on the world's leaders to do much more for education -- to deliver on millennium development goal promises and in setting the post 2015 development agenda," added Chapman.
Right now there are an estimated 57 million primary school aged children who are denied an education. Over 30 million of these children are girls.
The UN takeover is part of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Education First initiative and has been organised by the UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown who will be in attendance on the day.
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