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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Malala Yousafzai calls for more support for girls in education in literature festival speech
DUBAI: Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai has always been a staunch advocate for womens’ right to education. The activist, who has been campaigning for equal schooling opportunities since the age of 11, was ambushed and shot by the Taliban in 2012 while on her way home.
Fortunately, she survived and did not falter in her mission to promote access to education. Yousafzai has since traveled the world to give inspirational speeches, written a best-selling book and become the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize at just 17.
She has continued to use her influence to enact change via the non-profit Malala Fund, that advocates for girls’ education through helping build schools in rural areas, offering programs to advance secondary education and providing school supplies for those who need them most.
The activist, 23, took the opportunity to speak at the 2021 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature over the weekend to discuss why we should prioritize the right to education and to highlight the current issues making it difficult for females around the world to attend school.
Speaking virtually, the Oxford University graduate said: “Every girl should have the right to complete 12 years of education.”
She also touched on the effects that the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had on schooling.
“Millions of girls are being taken out of schools, which is a serious cause of concern,” Yousafzai said.
“I really hope that governments, teachers, civil society and education activists are giving their full attention to this, ensuring that girls are learning from home, at this time,” she said.
Citing research from the Malala Fund, Yousafzai revealed that it is estimated that 20 million more girls will be dropping out of school for issues like “girls being pushed into forced marriages or having to become the financial supporters of their families and added responsibilities, leaving no time for their education.”
She added: “There is a gender disparity when we look at how COVID-19 has impacted education, not only while the pandemic is ongoing but also once it is over and many children start returning to school. Several girls might be held back for these reasons and will not be able to return to school.”
Yousafzai pointed out that the Malala Fund has initiated a series of initiatives to make sure girls can continue learning during the pandemic and return to school as soon as it is safe.
“One of the activists that we support in Nigeria started radio lessons during the pandemic, to keep children engaged in education and learn from home. In Pakistan, the activists have worked on coming up with mobile apps and providing educational lessons through national television,” said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
She concluded her empowering speech by stating that while “there are millions of more girls who are at risk of losing their education, the Malala Fund will continue to work hard and ensure that as many girls are able to return to school once this is over.”
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