Sometimes it takes a hero to notice or be reminded what is important. In a country like Pakistan where girls are systematically disenfranchised, a 14-year-old girl is an unlikely candidate. Malala spoke out on behalf of girls in Pakistan and their right to education. After being hunted down and shot in the head by the Taliban while boarding her school bus on October 9, 2012, she now has the world’s attention.
Malala’s father ran a girls’ school in Swat Valley, a mountainous region with over 1,000,000 residents close to the country’s capital, Islamabad. In 2009, the world watched in horror as the Taliban took over Swat and instituted its gruesome system of law and order. When the Taliban ordered girls’ schools be closed, Malala and her father defied their orders, kept their school open, and courageously defended the right of education for girls. During the terrifying reign of the Taliban, Malala fearlessly blogged her experience for the BBC and was featured in documentaries by The New York Times. I Am Malala is a wonderful book that we highly recommend reading.
As Malala fought for her life in a hospital bed, the world wa reminded of the perilous state of affairs in Pakistan. Predicted to be the world’s fourth most populous country by 2050, Pakistan has over 17 million school-aged children out of school – that means one in ten of the world’s out of school children resides in Pakistan! Public education is inaccessible to most children and when it is accessible much of the curriculum enforces rote learning and a narrow-minded worldviews that fuels negative stereotypes. Private schools are cost-prohibitive to most families of the country as they survive on less than $2 a day. The other alternative, madrassas (religious schools), offer limited knowledge with their focus on religious education. What future lays ahead for the children, particularly the girls of Pakistan?
The fact that Malala was targeted by the Taliban is evidence that they know that education of girls will be their undoing. Since educated girls bring about economic growth faster to a country than any other measure, the unstable, illiterate, impoverished, black market gun-running and drug-smuggling friendly environment extremists thrive in will no longer be available to them when all girls go to school.
At MDF we congratulate Malala on her recent Nobel Peace Prize Award. We are convinced that education, awareness of cultural diversity, and economic empowerment build the groundwork for peace in a region of the world critical to international security. Currently we are the only organization in the Roaring Fork Valley providing education to girls in Pakistan. We are keeping daily tabs on the health of Malala and have great hope for her survival, for her vision to become a reality.
Girls in Pakistan need access to quality education where they are taught multiple subjects, critical thinking, and learn skills to support entry into the workforce so they can overcome conditions of poverty. The Girl Effect is well known in the International Development world but what is needed here is The Malala Effect. Girls in conflict countries are given the least amount of support than any human being on the face of the earth. Investing in girls in conflict countries will do more than just eradicate poverty and illiteracy, it provides an additional return on investment, it helps create peace and stability. For people interested in supporting the dreams of Malala, please consider supporting MDF, we have a scholarship fund specifically for girls. Please visit our website at www.marshalldirectfund.org. Thank you to all of our current donors. You can also donate to the Malala Family Fund that has been set up. You can also join the campaign to save Malala and girls’ education.