The Power of the Adolescent Girl

When the Millennium Development Goals were implemented in 2000, Naw Cynthia was an adolescent girl striving for an education with little support from her family, her country of Myanmar, or the world at large.  Today, as global leaders recently met for the United Nations General Assembly to establish new goals for 2016, the face of this agenda is an adolescent girl – a girl in school, safe, not married off, and able to aspire to follow her dreams.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th is ‘the power of the adolescent girl’.  Global communities are being called upon to commit to critical investments in quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership.

The world recently witnessed the courage and power of an adolescent Pakistani girl, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafazi, who fought the Taliban for her right to attend school.  Malala’s story, detailed in her book I Am Malala and her upcoming documentary, He Named Me Malala, is an inspiration for girls all around the world.

However, it is not an easy journey for adolescent girls.  Naw Cynthia was one of five children with an absent father and a mother driven to beat her children.  As a young girl, Naw Cynthia was sexually abused by her neighbor.  These abuses seriously impacted her confidence. Yet she was determined to rise above her childhood and stand tall.  She knew that a good education would be her liberator.

Now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar, Naw Cynthia is working to give today’s adolescent girls a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Naw Cynthia readily shares her story with adolescent girls because she wants them to be strong and to not compromise their dreams.  She tells Burmese girls “You are NOT weak.  You are strong.  Do NOT let others look down on you.  And do NOT tolerate any form of abuse or harassment.”

Like so many women who juggle multiple responsibilities, Naw Cynthia worries she is not a good mother or a good leader or a good wife.  We believe she is an outstanding role model for girls and boys.  Naw Cynthia will teach her son to treat girls with respect and to value their contribution in the world.

Girls need inspirational role models like Naw Cynthia and Malala.   With approval from Malala Foundation, Educational Empowerment is translating I Am Malala into Burmese.  Soon it will be published in Yangon so Burmese girls can read Malala’s powerful story. Educational Empowerment is proud to be an advocate for girls’ rights at this pivotal time in history.  Girls need to know they have rights and how to access them.  Let’s all celebrate the power of the adolescent girl.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook at EE, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

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

 

Like Malala, I Raise My Hand to Support Girls' Education Because…

Girls' Globe blogger Elisabeth Epstein raises her hand for girls' education.
Girls’ Globe blogger Elisabeth Epstein raises her hand for girls’ education.

On my 16th birthday, I was excited to get my driver’s license. As the first of my friends to turn 16, I was anxious to drive my friends around independent from my parents. I was happy that my mom no longer had to drive me to school (how embarrassing, right?). I was foolish. I did not realize how lucky I was to go to school.

In 2009, Malala Yousafzai, a 15 year old Pakistani girl, made headlines when BBC published her diary. Malala’s personal accounts of gender inequities and restricted access to education gave the world its first glimpse of life under Taliban law. Two years later, her popularity grew as Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize and Pakistan’s Prime Minister awarded her with the country’s first National Youth Peace Prize.*

Due to her rising popularity and national recognition, the Taliban viewed her as a threat – for how could anyone challenge Taliban law, particularly a young girl? In order to quell Malala’s growing network of supporters, the Taliban took drastic action.

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is an education. And I’m afraid of no one. ~ Malala Yousafzai

On October 9th, 2012, the Taliban sought to forever silence Malala and shot her in the head and neck. Although initially in critical condition, Malala miraculously survived only to become stronger than ever. Her story of infallible courage, which has since garnered international attention, has catapulted the fight for universal access to education to new heights.

Since the attack, Malala not only has inspired countless education advocates, but she has also launched the Malala Fund, an organization which aims to support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world. Additionally, Malala has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People as well as nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest nominee in Nobel Prize history.

On Friday, July 12th – less than one year after her attempted assassination – Malala turns 16 years old. Rather than celebrating her birthday by gallivanting around town with friends in the family car, Malala will be speaking to the United Nations, giving voice to the 66 million girls around the world still unable to go to school.

They will not stop me. I will get my education if it is in home, school, or any place. ~ Malala Yousafzai

This Friday, now globally known as Malala Day, symbolizes the extraordinary power of courage, of education, of girls.

Image Courtesy of Time Magazine
Image Courtesy of Time Magazine

Here are five ways YOU can help:

  1. Sign the petition urging the United Nations to fund more global initiatives to ensure the world achieves Millennium Development Goal #2 – universal education for both boys and girls.
  2. Use Instagram and Vine! Raise your hand and tell the world why you believe in girls’ right to education. Tag photos with #MalalaDay and #bcimagirl.
  3. Explain to your friends on Facebook why Malala Day is so important. Raising awareness is crucial!
  4. Join the conversation on Twitter!  Use #MalalaDay and #bcimagirl to share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas about Malala and her fight to achieve universal access to education for children around the world.
  5. Donate to the Malala Fund and support the advancement of universal access to education around the world.

To learn more about Malala’s story, please see the following:

More of a visual learner? Watch these videos to discover more:

*This annual award is now known as the National Malala Peace Prize.  

Cover image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I am Malala, You are Malala

By now many of you are probably familiar with the story of the 15-year old Pakistani school girl and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 11, Malala did the unthinkable, she spoke out very publicly in a diary blog featured on BBC criticizing the Taliban’s repressive policy against educating girls. For this, Malala and a fellow schoolgirl were gunned down as they left school on October 9th.

Malala and her friend’s pain were not in vain. It’s incredible the level of reactions to Malala. For an extremist group that is so against giving rights to women, they sure are giving this young girl plenty consideration and ample attention. It’s obvious by their retaliation that her words struck a chord amongst the group, and they felt threatened. Conversely, support of Malala has poured in from all corners of the world and condemnation against the Taliban has been severe. World leaders, country governments, activist-minded celebrities, everyday people have been inspired by Malala’s story and the ensuing violent act. New life has been breathed into the fight for girls’ education, and education for everyone else for that matter, and it is a passionate movement.

Nowhere has the outrage that has erupted around the world against the Taliban been more vehement than in her own country of Pakistan. Pakistanis of both genders and all ages are expressing anger at the shooting and the Taliban’s overall oppression and schoolchildren have vowed to continue with their education and attending school despite fear of Taliban retaliation. It will be interesting to see how this will encourage others living under Taliban rule to speak out. It will also be important to watch how Pakistan handles this situation. This is a country and the government for which the Taliban is operating within, so Pakistan can be sure that the world will be watching to see what level of effort will go into finding those behind the shooting and how punishment will be given.

You may live across the world from Pakistan, you may have never experienced what it’s like to not be able to receive an education, you may have never lived in a country where oppressive factions like Taliban operate, but there is still something you can do. November 10th is a designated day of action to Stand with Malala and support education for the 34 million adolescent girls who do not receive education. Visit iammalala.org to sign the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Petition that will be delivered to the Pakistan President Zardari on this day to rally for education for all Pakistani children. Tweet and post on Facebook “I am Malala” #iammalala to show your support and share the petition with your friends. Learn more about the UN’s global Education First initiative to learn more about how the UN is working to put every child in school and improve education around the world. Hold a candlelight vigil in your community, stage a child education rally promoting the rights of education for all children, and petition your governments to support childhood education campaigns and initiatives in your own country and others. Support organizations like The International Center on Child Labor and Education, Save the Children, Association for Childhood Education International, and there are many more.

Fortunately, Malala is doing well and on her way to recovery, although she is not out of the clear yet with the very real possibility of infection. Keep Malala and all the other brave, young activists in your thoughts as well as the children all over the world who have not been given the chance at education. And tell us: how will you will Stand with Malala on November 10th?

The first featured image is from AFP.

The second featured image is from The Hindu.