Women & Gender

Nasa: Yousafzai demonstrates crucial stand against gender inequality; female education must be implemented globally

A grin stretched across my face when I heard the exciting news: Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who survived a potentially fatal Taliban shooting, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this month. She certainly deserves the honor of being the youngest person in history to be nominated.

Yousafzai caught the Taliban’s attention as a result of her vehement support of girls education in Pakistan, following an edict banning girls from going to school.

She began her activism by blogging for BBC, which led her to be featured in a documentary for The New York Times. She began to make more appearances in the media to advocate for girls education, despite knowing the possibility of violence for those who openly criticize the Taliban’s rule in Pakistan.

On her way home after taking an exam at school last October, 14-year-old Yousafzai was shot by a Taliban gunman. One of the bullets went through her head, which resulted in a serious skull fracture. Doctors worried if her physical and cognitive abilities would ever be the same, and at one point, her family worried about the possible need to make funeral arrangements. But Yousafzai pushed through. She is alive, she can speak, she can move and she can still go to school.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, about 63 percent of the 163 million illiterate youth in the world are female. UNICEF reports there are 115 million 6- to 12-year-olds not in school, about 60 percent of who are female. Gender equality is a universal human right and needs be protected across the globe.

Yousafzai has demonstrated how crucial it is to take a stand against inequality. Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue an education, no matter their gender, background or economic class.

Weeks after the shooting, a $10 million fund was created in Yousafzai’s name by Pakistan’s president. Another fund was established by a number of individuals including former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who suffered a similar injury to Yousafzai.

The goal of this fund is to offer grants to organizations and individuals working in education. Yousafzai and her father will decide to where the money will be allocated. UNESCO later revealed the Malala Plan, which aims to have every girl throughout the world in school by 2015.

I was reminded of Yousafzai’s perseverance the other day as I was making my way to class. I saw a flier for an organization called She’s the First, which has a chapter on campus. The mission of She’s the First is to help sponsor the education of girls throughout the developing world. Those in the organization hope it will give girls the potential to be the first female president of her country, the first doctor in her village or even the first in her family to attend school. I am proud that at Syracuse University, we work hard to make education accessible in our community, and also recognize the need for education to be accessible to everyone in the world.

Numerous studies have demonstrated how valuable of an asset women are to society when they are granted equal rights.

Empowering women increases development and reduces poverty. When women have more autonomy concerning the family income, they are more likely to spend it on their children’s education, health care, food and other expenses that can benefit the entire family. Educated women are more likely to participate in the political process.

Gender equality is essential for a progressive society. Investing in women and promoting female education are beneficial actions all countries should take.

Rahimon Nasa is a sophomore magazine journalism and international relations major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rnasa@syr.edu and followed on Twitter at @rararahima.

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