2013 Malala Day: 66 Million Ways to Change the World
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By the East Asia and Pacific Regional UNGEI
66 million girls around the world are out of school. Many of them are still fighting for their right to education.
These are the girls who, like 15-year-old Chas Lida from Cambodia, know that having an education will change their lives.
“Though I sometimes face difficulties like poverty in my family with eight siblings and the road conditions from my house to school, these are not reasons for me to give up school” she says.
“All these difficulties help me to study harder to change my life for the future that I dream of. I want to become an English teacher. I am now poor so I have to try to get out of this and I hope other girls will study harder and not let some difficulties get in the way of obtaining a brighter future.”
This is also Malala’s story. Last October when schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousafazi was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen on her way to school in Pakistan, people around the world were outraged. Malala was targeted simply because she was an advocate for girls’ education.
Thankfully Malala received medical treatment and was able to return to school in the UK just weeks after being released from hospital.
“I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school. I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity” she said.
Turning her vision into reality is the next step.
All children have the right to education
At the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and Plan International, we are firm believers that all children, girls and boys, have the right to education. Educating girls delivers huge social and economic benefits to the individual, community and country.
When a girl is educated, she marries later, has fewer children and is more likely to send her children to school. When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases, on average, by 3%.
Yet girls continue to face barriers to education because of attitudes restricting their role to that of wife, domestic worker, sibling carer, child bearer – roles that are not valued economically, and because they experience violence at or on the way to school.
In East Asia and the Pacific, significant progress has been made in narrowing the gender gap in education. However, there is still work to be done. In many countries, girls still receive fewer years of education than boys, particularly in remote areas and among ethnic and linguistic minority communities. It has been found that girls often have to drop out of school to help their mothers when fathers migrate and in some countries we are also seeing a “reverse gender gap” in the relative underachievement of boys.
Young people take over the United Nations
Today on her 16th birthday, Malala is taking her education campaign global and joining young people from all over the world for the first ever “youth takeover” of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“On Malala Day young people from all over the world will highlight the continued perils of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking, all of which prevent girls going to school. They will call for the 2 million teachers and 4 million classrooms needed to put into schooling the children who currently go without,” said Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
Malala will address hundreds of youth leaders who have come together with the express purpose of ensuring girls’ education gets the attention it deserves. Many of these young people are attending the event with the support of Plan International and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative.
This, and parallel events being held across the world, will focus the global spotlight on girls’ education as we set the world’s priorities beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline of 2015.
Today, members of the East Asia Pacific Regional UNGEI call on world leaders to ensure they meet MDG 2 on education by 2015 and include gender equality in education as a global priority post-2015.
Download a printable version of this statement here.
Follow UNGEI (@UNGEI) and Plan Asia (@PlanAsia) on Twitter for all the latest on Malala Day.
Join Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign and raise your hand in support of girls’ education here.
The East Asia Pacific Regional UNGEI promotes gender equality in education through: policy advocacy; sharing good practices, information and data; and building partnerships at the regional and country level. Check out our guide on Evidence Based Advocacy for Gender in Education here.