by Joe Walker, LCID Parliamentary Officer
Today is Malala Day. Sometimes it takes just one event, big or small, to bring about a revolution and to change the world. Young people have often been the inspiration and power to rally in support of common social and moral causes, whether this is about civil rights, climate change or ending global poverty. In 1976, a group of school children in Soweto, South Africa marched against the apartheid government’s sub-standard education policy for black children. Their actions re-ignited the struggle for freedom and changed the country forever. Malala Day can be a catalyst to bring about a revolution in education. Giving children the opportunity to go to school not only enables them to fulfil their potential, but can also gives them a pathway out of poverty and the freedom to shape their own future.
Malala Yousafzai was an ordinary school girl in Pakistan who believed passionately for the rights of girls to receive an education. Less than a year ago, as a result of speaking out, she was shot by the Taliban as she boarded a bus on her way to school. She thankfully survived and her story has inspired and mobilised thousands of young people to participate in Malala Day and to campaign for the 57 million boys and girls and 69 million youth who don’t have the opportunity to go to school and learn.
Supported by Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Malala Day also marks Malala’s sixteen birthday. She is using this day to give her first public address dedicated to the importance of education at the United Nations in New York. Today, in New York there will be the first ever youth take-over of the UN General Assembly. Young people from across the world are meeting there to agree a ‘Youth Call to Action’ on education for all children. What is happening in New York and around the world today will make education a reality for all children and help shape what education will look like in the future.
Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Today is about listening to young people and asking them how to bring about that change. Young people are most affected by the persistent problems facing the world and access to education has become one of the leading challenges of our time. With over 85% of the world’s youth living in the developing world, children and young people should be recognised as part of the solution to achieving the global education goals.
A global movement, led by young people, to demand education for all is a powerful symbolic moment. With only 900 days left to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the harsh reality is that this needs to translate into ensuring that governments around the world recommit to meeting the goals they established in 2000. It is only through governments, international institutions, NGOs, civil society, listening to the voices of young people tomorrow and beyond, that we can meet goals and shape a new generation of global citizens.
Young people have a unique reach through their unprecedented levels of energy and commitment to change the world. By standing in solidarity with Malala today, we can all make a real difference and bring about a revolution in education for every child.