Marking the International Day of the Girl, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Malala Yousafzai to the Oval Office to express appreciation for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan.
“Investing in girls’ education is the very best thing we can do, not just for our daughters and granddaughters, but for their families, their communities, and their countries,” the First Lady has said.
In his proclamation to mark the International Day of the Girl, Obama said, “Across the globe there are girls who will one day lead nations, if only we afford them the chance to choose their own destinies. And on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream.” We salute Malala’s efforts to help make these dreams come true.
“The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams.”
In October 2012, Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She made a miraculous recovery and has continued to be an outspoken advocate on behalf of equal access to education, despite continuing threats from the Taliban.
Malala was a favorite to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person to be nominated for the prize (it went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is currently charged with ridding Syria of its chemical weapons).
But she has received honors around the world, including at the United Nations where, on her 16th birthday, she gave a speech on World Youth Day.
She was recently honored at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative with a Citizen of the World Award for Leadership in Civil Society, where she said:
“I’m one of those children who has seen terrorism, poverty, injustice and inequality. Four years ago we saw the barbarism of the 21st century…. Where innocent people were slaughtered every night in the squares. Where girls were stopped from going to school and women were banned to go market. Where more than 400 schools were targeted. At that time, we raised our voice… We said that in this modern era, even disabled and special children are educated but on the other hand, we women and girls are forced and pushed back to the Stone Age.
“We raised our voice for the education of every child. And now…. it’s like a paradise on earth. Now schools are reopened and many girls are going back to school. But still….
“Because not only terrorism blocks the way to education, there are many more difficulties the children and especially girls are facing. Child labor, child trafficking, poverty, inequality…and cultural taboos.
“People of Syria are bombed and children cannot go to school . Children of Pakistan and Afghanistan are targets of terrorism. “Children of Kenya are suffering from child labor. In many African countries, children have no access to food and clean water. They are starving for education.
“In many countries, like Nigeria, girls are suffering from early forced marriages and are victims of sexual violence. Women are not even accepted as human beings. They are treated with injustice and inequality. Women are denied, they are neglected even in developed countries, where they are not given the opportunity to move forward and be what they want.
“Even in America, even in America, people are waiting for a woman president,” she said, as cheers erupted.
“I know the issues are complex and enormous. But the solution is one and simple: education, education, education. We can fight all these hardships and lead to equality in education for both boys and girls.”
She added, “and I hope that governments and all responsible people would realize that we cannot end war with a war. We can fight war through dialogue, peace and education.
“We ask governments and responsible people, if you want peace in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, if you want to end war, instead of sending guns, send books; instead of sending tanks, send pens; instead of sending soldiers, send teachers…Fight terrorism through education.
“And let me remind you that one book, one pen, and one teacher can change the world.”
Yousafzai, who was secretly writing about the issue of girls access to education for the BBC since she was 12, was honored with the National Peace Prize in Pakistan in 2011 and nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
In an interview she said that she had once wanted to be a doctor; now she wants to be Prime Minister of Pakistan one day, so she can help her whole country.
Mayor Bloomberg, Malala among 7 Honored With Clinton Global Citizen Award
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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