Malala urges global action to ensure education for all girls

NEW YORK: Pakistani education advocate and UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai called for increased efforts to provide education to over 120 million girls who are currently out of school.

Speaking at a gathering in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on the tenth anniversary of her landmark Malala Day address at the UN Headquarters, Yousafzai emphasized the need for global action against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism.

The event was attended by UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, who introduced Yousafzai as someone who has transcended borders, cultures, and generations with her message and passion.

Mohammed highlighted that quality education for both girls and boys is not merely a dream but a fundamental human right.

Over the past decade, Yousafzai has completed high school and university, traveled to more than 30 countries, and established the Malala Fund, which works to reduce barriers to girls’ education.

She has consistently advocated for the rights of girls and highlighted the challenges they face due to poverty, patriarchy, climate issues, and conflicts.

During her travels, Yousafzai has met with young women and activists in different countries, including refugees in Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, and Rwanda, as well as indigenous girls in Brazil.

She has also made multiple trips to Nigeria, engaging with activists, young women, and parents of the Chibok school kidnapping victims.

While acknowledging global initiatives to promote education and gender equality, Yousafzai warned that substantial progress has yet to be achieved. She expressed concern over the limited impact of these efforts on the lives of hundreds of millions of girls, particularly exacerbated by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yousafzai highlighted the grave situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s return to power has resulted in a complete reversal of progress. Previously, one in three women in Afghanistan were enrolled in university, but now women and girls are entirely banned from pursuing an education.

Reflecting on her earlier optimism, Yousafzai acknowledged that one individual alone cannot change the world. Instead, she called for collective action, emphasizing the need for collaboration to provide 12 years of quality education to all children.

She stressed the importance of holding leaders accountable for their commitments to gender equality and education.

Addressing the cultural and religious barriers faced by girls, Yousafzai urged the breaking of the stranglehold of patriarchy and misogyny disguised as traditions. She expressed hope for the future, having met young girls who understand the power of education and are actively working to ensure access for all children.

During her visit, Yousafzai, accompanied by her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund, traveled to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in Nigeria. They visited three schools focusing on providing quality education to girls affected by violence.

Following her visit, Mohammed will join the secretary general in UN-European Union meetings in Brussels to further discuss education and gender equality initiatives.

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