NEW YORK CITY — Speaking at an event marking the 500-day countdown to the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Malala Yousafzai urged action on the second MDG: achieving universal education for children around the world.
Malala, a young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, has become a global spokesperson for universal education. Working closely with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative, Malala is advocating to ensure that every child is enrolled in school by 2015.
In addition, underlying all of her work is a push to promote the idea of global citizenship. Speaking at the countdown, Malala encouraged the audience, saying, “We all have talents and we all are special, so just continue your hard work, continue your campaigns and you are going to be the leaders of this world, you are going to be the future of this world.”
Education is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty around the world, especially through focused education efforts for young girls. Today, there are 33 million fewer girls enrolled in primary school than boys. Furthermore, in one year, an estimated 150 million girls will become victims of sexual violence and 14 million girls under the age of 18 will be married.
These issues of child marriage, sexual violence and poverty can all be mitigated through education. For instance, girls who receive as few as eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children.
Moreover, there is a strong economic incentive: a girl with one extra year of education is likely to earn 20 percent more as an adult than one without. In India, this means that if one percent more of the nation’s girls were enrolled in secondary education, the country’s GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
As the last 500 days pass, awareness will continue to be raised about the significance and importance of achieving the MDGs. Malala’s voice is one that will be heard for decades to come and is an important motivation in pushing all countries to achieve universal education. In order to do this, ensuring that girls are receiving the same opportunities as a boy is fundamental to reaching the benchmarked goal.
Education empowers people, giving them the tools to create stable lives, contribute to their communities and countries and eradicate the scourge of poverty, violence and extremist ideology.
– Andrea Blinkhorn