Saturday, January 16, 2016

GIRLS WITH GOALS..... from Malala

Girls with goals
From  Malala…… co-founder of the Malala Fund and youngest-ever Nobel prizewinner

One of the most wonderful and positive choices any family can make is to educate their daughters through secondary school. If girls are educated, everyone benefits. Girls develop the confidence and skills to make decisions about their lives and contribute fully to their communities. Yet in many parts of the world girls are offered little more than basic literacy and numeracy, even though secondary education is what provides wings for girls to fly.

I am still a teenager, but if I had been born into a traditional, conservative family in Pakistan, I would almost certainly be married with several children by now. I have met many girls who are pressured to leave school to marry or take care of families. Others drop out because of violence, discrimination, conflict and poverty. In many cases, the education of girls is simply not valued and there is no school for them to go to.

This breaks my heart, I have loved learning for as long as I can remember. As a little girl in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, I would deliver imaginary lessons to the children at my father's school and dream of being a doctor (and later a politician). Since I became an education activist, which is my preferred career choice for now, I have had the opportunity to meet many influential people, and I cannot imagine that any of them would accept basic education for their own children. So why are our politicians settling for basic education for girls they have not met, when education is the greatest tool for personal empowerment and national development?

The new UN global education goal announced in September 2015 commits all UN member states to provide free, equitable, quality education for all by 2030. But these fine words will never become reality without specific commitments to provide secondary education to the most vulnerable girls. For most of them, education beyond very basic schooling is still a distant dream.

In the poorest countries, only 20% of girls complete lower secondary school. In Kenya, for example, less than half of girls continue from primary to secondary education. In my home country of Pakistan, the poorest girls are 16 times less likely to complete high school than the richest boys. In many countries governments do not even keep data beyond lower secondary school.

Compare this with rich countries, where 12 years of school and the expectation of further education are increasingly the norm. In 2016, how many people will think that a few years of education is enough to succeed? By 2030, when the new global goals are supposed to be achieved, it certainly won't be enough.

So, in 2016, while continuing my studies, I will also be working with my father and our colleagues at the Malala Fund to make sure that our leaders commit themselves to providing 12 years of free, safe, quality education for every girl by 2030. There will be many tests of that commitment. The first is funding and the willingness to finance our future now.

UNESCO estimates that it will cost an additional $39 billion every year between now and 2030 to send each child to primary and secondary education for 12 years, free. It sounds like a lot. But the money is already there. It is a question of priorities.

That $39 billion could be raised easily if all OECD countries committed 0.7% of GDP to development aid, and allocated just 10% of that aid to education. Another way would be to choose books, not bullets. Cutting eight days of global military spending would cost the same as a year of education for all.

Lack of data is another difficulty that has to be overcome. We often hear that more than 60m girls are out of school, but that figure covers only nine years of education, not 12. Without data on upper secondary school, how can education and finance ministries make proper plans? When world leaders meet in 2016 to agree on the measures of success for the new education goal, they must also agree that every country should collect data on the participation of boys and girls in a full 12 years of schooling.

I have no illusions about the size of the task ahead. Nor am I in any doubt about the power of girls to achieve their dreams. In the few short years that I have been able to use my voice to speak out for the right to education, I have met many courageous girls determined to learn.

Power to the sisters

As I write about these new global goals, I am also thinking of friends from Syria who now take lessons as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, the girls who escaped Boko Haram in Nigeria and are still determined to learn, and girls in Pakistan and Kenya who have the chance to go to high school for the first time.

My sisters inspire me to keep going. We know that we are part of something bigger. We will unlock our power. In 2016, our voices will be heard.


In many parts of the world girls are offered little more than basic literacy and numeracy, even though secondary education is what provides wings for girls to fly

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