For most people, getting shot in the head would slow them down but that is not the case for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who inadvertently became an international advocate for girl’s education and a target of the Taliban. Today, Yousafzai spoke at the Social Good Summit in New York as well as made her Twitter debut in order to raise awareness of the issue of equal education. She is also preparing for the official launch of her new project, The Malala Fund, which will open next month.
On stage with her father Ziauddin Yousafazai and her mentor Shiza Shahid, Yousafazai spoke of the journey that got her here, including the shooting in Pakistan that happened 10 months ago. Despite the trauma of not only being shot but seeing two of her fellow classmates shot as well, she spoke of the inspiration she drew from the global support she has received since that day. “When I see the love and support of the people, I forget about the incident…I am the luckiest girl the world.” Rather than dwell on events that have passed, she is instead choosing to achieve her goal through the Malala Fund of seeing every child in the world educated. She noted that too many children are suffering through child labor, child trafficking, and terrorism. These children instead belong in school and we cannot wait for others to act. Instead, it is our duty to act now.
Another goal of the Malala Fund is to connect girls worldwide. If the Social Good Summit is any indication, Yousafzai is not alone in these goals. Earlier in the day the audience heard from Elba Velasquez Hernandez, a young Guatemalan advocate with the Adolescent Girls Advocacy & Leadership Initiative. Recognizing the need in her own community for support for girls in school and in combatting abuse at home, Velasquez successfully petitioned community leaders to provide a safe space for girls to turn. She eventually got funding and an office set up that provides psychological counseling and support services to ensure that girls have the same opportunity to achieve their dreams. Standing on stage with her translator, Velasquez spoke of the need for people to understand that girls have a voice too and are just as valuable as men. Only by speaking out could things change for the betterment of all girls.
Girl leaders like Yousafzai and Velasquez are the reason why Let Girls Lead launched the Global Girls’ Conservation, which collects short videos from girls around the world on the challenges they face in their communities and what they are doing to address them. Launched five days ago, the platform already has videos from girls in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The Malala Fund and Let Girls Lead are just two organizations working to empower girls worldwide just as Yousafzai and Velasquez are just two girl leaders working to change their communities. As world leaders and government officials meet in New York this week to discuss the post-2015 agenda, it will be girls like Yousafzai and Velasquez who will be tasked with carrying out their policies and building upon them in 2030. They are already changing the communities where they live. More importantly, they demonstrate how, with proper investment and attention, girls will change the world.