Malala Day 2014: What are you #StrongerThan?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

Today marks the second annual Malala Day. Malala Yousafzai and two of her classmates were shot by Taliban gunman on their way to school in Pakistan in October 2012 (for being girls and for wanting to get an education). After surviving the traumatic encounter, Malala did not fear school, but instead has become a global icon for promoting pacifism and everyone’s right to education.

Malala says that the extremists fear the power of education, and courageously asks, “Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.”

According to UNESCO, global literacy rates are on the rise, however, currently two-thirds of illiterate adults (493 million) are women. Among the 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female.

Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.

UNFPA reminds us of the far-reaching effects of educating girls. Education for girls is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Not only does education create opportunities for individuals, educating a girl improves her family’s opportunities and health outcomes for generations. An educated women can secure resources for her family, access to education for her children, and is less likely to have unintended births. Educating girls also generates positive social and economic development.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, “education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force.” A study of 19 developing countries found that a country’s long-term economic growth increases “by 3.7 percent for every year the adult population’s average level of schooling rises.”

Countries that have made social investments in health, family planning, and education have slower population growth and faster economic growth than countries that have not made such investments.

This Malala Day, Malala does not want us to forget that we are stronger than those who threaten the right to education. Stand with Malala and the others who are fighting for women’s education by tweeting that you are #StrongerThan.

Meet other girls like Malala who are fighting for their right to education from around the globe here:

To learn more about the importance of educating girls, watch the following TED Talks:

Visit these organization’s websites to learn about how they are working toward improving education for women and girls:

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Michael Volpicelli


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Category: Rights
Tagged with: #StrongerThan    economic development    education    girls' education    I am Malala    Kakenya Ntaiya    Kavita Ramdas    Literacy    Malala    Malala Day    Malala Yousafzai    Michelle Obama    poverty    Shababa Basij-Rasikh    Sheryl WuDunn    social development    TED    WEAVE    Women's Education Project    World Education    Ziauddin Yousafzai

Liz Fortier

Liz earned a Master’s of Public Health degree from New York University in 2012, during which she researched harm reduction measures for intravenous drug users, and worked for a diabetes prevention research study in East Harlem. Liz traveled to Mexico and South Africa with NYU to understand the approaches taken toward improving community health in those countries. Liz has consistently been invested in the health of marginalized populations and improving access to health care for those living in poverty. As a way to entrench herself in one of the world’s most impoverished cities, Liz volunteered at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. Liz spent 2013 in South Korea teaching English and investigating gender issues there. She is eager to share what she has learned about health and poverty and how those issues relate to gender equity. Liz lives in Brooklyn, New York. Be inspired to take action toward global gender equity! Follow Liz on Twitter @LizAFort

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  • “Among the 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female.” – That actually is progress – until a few years and certainly decades ago, the female percentage would have been much higher, now it is almost fifty-fifty, a number I would not have expected to see in my lifetime. While the “third world” seems to make great strides to eradicate illiteracy (and only then can expect to equally eradicate poverty), the “well-off” OECD countries are sliding back, turning out more and more functionally illiterate school leavers with each closing school year!

    • Liz Fortier

      Thanks for the comment! My apologies for the delay in response! I agree, we are definitely making progress! The disappointing fact is that “Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.” There is still work to be done!
      I think you make a very interesting point, about the “well-off” countries “sliding back” in education progress. I have never researched this topic, but I would guess that the general educational deficiencies in countries like the US might actually be gender equitable deficiencies. Poor, but equally poor for both girls and boys. I may look into this further. Very interesting- thanks for the thought!