THE BLOG
10/16/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Malala's Ultimate Prize

Credit-Tanya Malott Malala Fund

(Photo Credit: Tanya Malott/Malala Fund)

I was impressed that Malala Yousafzai decided to stay in school last Friday -- the day that she and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rather than rushing out of class to answer the calls of the world's media, she attended her lessons in chemistry, physics and English -- pausing only for a short school assembly so that her fellow students could also hear the news and congratulate her.

A quality education for all children

At a press conference after school, fittingly held at the Library of Birmingham, Malala expressed her thanks for the award, but as always, retained her clarity of purpose.

"I want to see every child going to school," she said, reminding us all that access to education is something that millions of children still cannot take for granted. Like all good campaigners, she had the facts at her fingertips. 58 million children are still out of school and hundreds of millions simply don't gain adequate literacy and numeracy skills -- even after several years of school. Quality, basic education for all is the prize she ultimately seeks.

The goal of education for all is the driving purpose of the Global Partnership for Education. We are honored to count Malala as a friend and champion of the Global Partnership and have extended to her and to Kailash, a former colleague and friend, our warmest congratulations. We look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that our shared vision can finally become a reality.

More focus on girls' education

Malala is a role model for all who want to break down the barriers that prevent girls going to school. She is acutely aware that, especially in rural areas, girls drop out earlier, may be forced into early marriages, or simply denied the schooling that empowers a girl to make her own decisions and participate fully in all that life has to offer.

She speaks passionately and personally about those who treat girls as slaves and do not allow girls to go to school. She speaks from direct knowledge, based on her own experience and the hard choices she faced when living in the Swat Valley under Taliban control.

"I did not wait for someone else. I had two options: one was not to speak and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up, and then be killed," she said.

Malala chose the second path, an act of great courage for which she almost lost her life and for which she has rightly been honored with one of the greatest accolades of humankind -- the Nobel Peace Prize. As she said last week, this is not the end, it is the beginning, giving her courage and power to carry on. We stand with her on that journey.

A great father who supports his daughter

I also want to pay special tribute to Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is an equally great champion for education and friend of the Global Partnership for Education. We are enormously proud to work with him and I am personally impressed by the courage he has shown in standing up for what he believes in, not only for his daughter but for the right of all girls to go to school. Ziauddin is a great educator and leader in his own right. He has often spoken of the crucial role of men and boys in achieving a more just and peaceful world.

Malala thanked her father, and her words resonate with me as I think of my own late father and the support he gave to me and my sister in pursuing our dreams. Speaking about her father, Malala said: "He didn't give me something extra, but he never clipped my wings, he let me fly, he let me achieve my goals."

I don't doubt for a moment that Malala will continue to fly, working both wisely and boldly for education, defending it as a basic right and critical contributor to making the world a safer, healthier, more peaceful and fairer place.

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Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, the only global multilateral partnership devoted to getting all children in school and learning.