Back to Listing
Malala Yousafzai - global activist for girls' education
17 December 2018
What goes hand-in-hand with campaigning for the rights of girls to receive an education? For many it is the name “Malala Yousafzai” (pictured above in Sydney with Annabel Crabb on left). Recently, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was shot by the Taliban when she was 15, was in Sydney and Melbourne as a guest of The Growth Faculty, for which Ruby was an Alliance Partner.
According to Malala 130 million girls and young women are missing out on getting a full education. On Monday night 8000 people in Sydney heard about Malala’s reasons for righting this imbalance. The right to an education, she says, is a basic human right without which girls, and young women, remain vulnerable to oppression, and are an untapped potential for the world and themselves.
Moderated by writer and presenter Annabel Crabb, whose sometimes curly questions pushed us all to think further, Malala spoke in detail about her motivations, inspirations, and experiences.
Born in 1997, Malala grew up in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan with her parents and two brothers. Her activist voice was heard at birth when her father made the decision to have her name added to the family tree. The family tree is a 300-year-old tradition, kept up to date by Malala’s uncle. Within that tradition only fathers and sons are ever recorded, however, at the insistence of her father, Malala was included and is now the first female family member recorded on the tree.
Malala describes her home and the Swat Valley as a place of great beauty, diverse wildlife and peace, “a tourist destination the Queen of England visited once and went hunting”. Around 2007, all of that changed when the Taliban took control. (More recently, the Pakistan government reasserted its control, and the area has begun the return to what it was when Malala was a child.)
From the age of 10, Malala was outspoken on the rights of girls to receive an education. In 2012, when she was 15 years old, she was targeted and shot by Taliban members while traveling home from school on the bus with her friends. As she notes, the people who shot her shot a child. They were frightened of a child and of education, especially girls having an education. She finds that very telling and her work fighting for children’s rights to education, which went onto make her the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has made her a great deal more famous, influential and powerful than her aggressors.
In Sydney she spoke at length about her motivations, her inspirations, always focussing back on her message, the importance of education for the 130 million girls and young women who are missing out on their human right.
Malala and her father have chosen to fund activists who work in their own communities agitating and advocating for, developing and running programs which focus on educating girls. She says that no matter where women live in the world, in places of oppression, or places of poverty or war or great wealth and comfort, they share a common issue, gender inequality. This shared experience of imbalance is why, wherever Malala speaks, she is able to find common ground and connect with women.
To hear more from Malala, see here.
Through our Facebook page we offered two double passes to our Ruby members, one for the Sydney event (part of the 8000 strong audience, above) and the other for Melbourne. We received many responses to our question “who inspires you” and it was difficult to pick our winners.
A surprising number of entrants told us it was their daughters who inspired them and in the audience on Monday night were many parents and mothers with their children.
According to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there are about 263 million children and youth out of school. The statistics include an estimate of those of upper secondary age for the first time.
Fifteen to 17-year-olds are four times more likely not to be in school than children between the ages of 6-11, according to the global average. Part of the reason for the jump is that primary and lower secondary education is compulsory in nearly every country - upper secondary school is not. At the same time, these youth are often of legal working age. Many have no choice but to work while others try to combine going to school with employment.
Girls still more likely than boys never to go to school
According to UIS data, 15 million girls of primary-school age will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school. Every day, children, and especially girls, face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, social and community fragility.