President Barack Obama may have won Time’s Person Of The Year for 2012, but in my opinion Malala Yousafzai was more deserving of the title. Her bravery became internationally known only after her life almost ended, yet since then her determination to get an education has kept the issue of women’s rights in the forefront of worldwide discussions. Therefore even though I’ve already written one post about her, Malala’s continuation of bringing about true change worldwide makes her deserving of woman of the week as well.
I’m a firm believer in the power of discussion – only once awareness of an issue has been raised can progress truly be made. In the tragedy surrounding Ms. Yousafzai’s attack on October 9th of this year, in which the Taliban actively shot her down because of her public advocacy for girls’ education, the international community has put a face to this uphill struggle for women’s basic rights.
Worldwide there are about 61 million children out of school, 32 million of them being girls. In Malala’s province in Pakistan, 600,000 of the 700,000 children absent from school are girls, which can be partially attributed to the Taliban’s condemnation of girls in school.
There has been criticism that Malala is only famous because she is pretty, and that there are many other girls fighting for education who deserve to be more well-known than her. Yet Malala’s response to her sudden international status proves that she isn’t just a pretty face looking to only improve living standards for herself, but that she truly cares for the plight of young girls everywhere. For example, the school she attended in Pakistan recently tried to rename itself after her, but both other girls and Malala are insisting that the name stays the same. The reasoning behind this is that the school will likely come under greater threat from the Taliban and will be an easy target, putting more girls in danger. Malala cares more about access to education for other girls than about name recognition, proving that she’s pushing forward in the face of great opportunity.
While many thought that Malala’s story would be forgotten in a few weeks, her continuation of the fight for girls everywhere has led to tangible action from countries all around the world. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the UK, has scheduled a summit in Washington on April 19th to discuss the “urgent measures to get children into school by end of 2015” in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has partnered with the Pakistani government to create the “Malala Fund For Girls”, in which all the proceeds go towards providing more gender equality in one of the most unequal countries in the world. Pakistan has already donated $10 million to the organization to jumpstart the goal of enrolling all girls in primary school by 2015.
At the age of 15, Malala has made more progress than most people do in their lifetimes. Her fearlessness and determination to do the right thing has caught the attention of adults all around the world, adults who have the power to change the path for young girls worldwide. Malala deserves to be not only woman of the week, but woman of the year.