03/13/2013 12:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Advocacy Overcomes Adversity

Marissa is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

What does one do when his or her rights are confronted? What does one do when deprived of a freedom entirely vital to his or her progress? Does one fight for this freedom, or does one submit to the power oppressing? What if others are facing the same form of oppression? When does one decide to resist and whose role is it to do so?

Malala Yousafzai of the Swat Valley region of Pakistan provides answers to the questions above in a unique way. She persists with courage and acts with an unyielding sense of justice. However, Malala's advocacy has been met with violence. In October of 2012, Malala was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen. She was 15-years-old, and was returning from a day at school. The Taliban has stated that if she survives, they intend to kill Malala. Malala is currently on the course of recovery, and lives in the shadow of the Taliban's threats.

Yousafzai was targeted for advocating for the right of girls to attend school. The Taliban has prohibited education for girls at times in the Swat Valley and has forced girls to stay home. The development of knowledge is the resource that creates opportunity. Without education, it is difficult to find success. Malala not only recognizes that education is a right that she deserves, but Malala stands up for this right. She has fought for her liberty, speaking out against the banning of school for Pakistani girls, from the age of 11.

Malala made the decision to take action with the awareness that she may be targeted with violence as a result. This is what makes her advocacy so admirable. She chose to speak out against what she judged to be unjust because she believed in what she knew to be right. Major changes within a group of people, large or small, do not happen without the existence of a single or a few individuals who are willing to take a risk. When an idea is lodged deeply into the being of a group of people, many will not be willing to stand up against this idea in fear of the criticism that they may receive. However, if no one is willing to take the risk and accept the consequences, change will be delayed. Nothing will change unless someone is willing to act. Malala took a risk, accepted and recovered from the consequences, and provided the world with a leader to follow protecting women's right to learn.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that everyone has a right to education. Malala, and all others like her, deserve education. Education is important because it enables individuals to seize their dreams and pave their futures. Education for women is essential because it is an effective method of eliminating poverty. Education aids women and girls in making healthier lifestyle choices and resisting domestic violence. It opens the doors to other opportunities for women, including jobs and higher wages, which reduces poverty.

The attack on Malala Yousafzai drew attention to the issue of the right to education for women and gave others who would like to protect this right somebody to rally behind. A campaign was launched by the United Nations, which defends girls' right to education called "I Am Malala." Angelina Jolie donated $50,000 to a charity supporting girls' education in honor of Malala. Thousands have signed a petition asking for Malala to be nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala's courage and strength has the power to influence others to use their voices to inspire change; we must not let it go to waste. Our world is not perfect, but our voices, like Malala's, have the power to make a change. To fix the problems in our world, we must utilize this power. If you would like to contribute your voice and time to the cause of education for women and girls like Malala, be aware of opportunities. Discover organizations that you have faith in. Do something.

One way to get involved is through an organization called She's the First. She's the First is founded by a lovely young lady named Tammy Tibbetts with the mission of increasing girls' education in the developing world. She's the First helps girls become the first in their families to graduate and gives them the confidence to do great things. Through She's The First, it is possible for you to fund a girl's education, in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Guatemala, India, or Nepal, who would not otherwise have the opportunity. You can also purchase a She's the First bracelet created by Asha Patel Designs to support the efforts of the organization. The bracelets cost $20 and 20 percent of the proceeds go to the She's the First. To learn more, visit She's the First.

Another way to support women is through Circle of Women, a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, MA. Circle of Women enables activists to get involved locally to make a difference on a global scale. This organization works to educate one girl at a time so that they can teach and influence others in their community. Join a Circle of Women chapter if there is already one in your area, or if there is not, start one at your high school or university. Circle chapters unite people in bringing education to girls around the globe. Visit the Circle of Women website for resources to start a chapter!

A third way to make a difference towards this cause is through a donation of any size to the Women in the World Foundation or any organization that you trust and believe in. The Foundation is launching a campaign in honor of Malala to provide funds for girls' education in Pakistan and Afghanistan with the support of Angelina Jolie and Tina Brown. To learn more, visit the website here.

Use your voice and your power. Increase awareness through word of mouth. Bring up the topic of women and girls fighting for their education with your friends and at the family dinner table. If you are on Facebook, "like" organizations such as She's the First, Starfish International, and Circle of Women that work to support girls like Malala. Tweet about them. Host a fundraiser in your community. Organize a book drive. Whatever it is that you can contribute, with your abilities, strengths, and skills, do it. Stand behind Malala. Use your voice to make a change.