While 18-year-old Malala Yousafzai's status as a human rights icon and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history is now assured, she would be the first to insist that the tale is far from complete. By sharing her remarkable story, Malala continues to demonstrate her unwavering commitment to girls' right to education and to inspire others into action. But there's always more to the story.
In collaboration with the Malala Fund and Little, Brown and Company, faculty experts affiliated with the George Washington University's Global Women's Institute have developed a free resource guide for university- and high school-level students based on Malala's memoir I Am Malala. We are proud to join Malala -- not only in her fight for girls' equal access to quality education, but also in giving her story and movement an academic platform.
We were also gratified and excited to have Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala's father and a career educator himself, closely participate in the resource guide's development. In the preface to the guide, he writes, "Education, whether at home or in the classroom, has the power to promote acceptance of others' views and to challenge biases and bigotry," a lesson with value that transcends not only classroom, but also geographical and cultural boundaries.
While Malala's story is extraordinary, the lack of access to education for girls is unfortunately quite common. Currently 66 million girls around the world are denied a formal education. And this is just one piece of a cycle of exploitation and injustice that many of them will face throughout their lives: Every three seconds a girl becomes a child bride; four out of five victims of human trafficking are girls; and one in three women experience violence in her lifetime. Educating girls is a critical step towards preventing these abuses.
Malala is continuing her fight to ensure girls around the world have equal access to quality education by speaking out as the UN drafts the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals: currently the goal on education ensures secondary school for children around the world through nine years, and Malala has been steadfast in advocating for an increase to twelve years.
By making Malala's urgent message available to more students worldwide, the resource guide is intended to help create a new generation of voices that can speak out for these millions of girls. Malala's struggle personalizes the global issues that many students do not experience and may only vaguely understand. Putting a human face on these issues will inspire a new generation of students to gain a broader understanding of the world and how they can be part of the solution to the challenges that young people like them face.
Students may also learn that some of the aspects of their lives that they take for granted -- access to a good education and the ability to stand up for their rights and the rights of others -- are considered dangerous luxuries for which many of their peers around the world are still fighting. Ultimately, we hope the resource guide is an engaging tool that empowers young people to gain depth beyond today's headlines, provokes their thoughts and inspires them to become the next generation of change agents within their communities.
Not least of all, the resource guide shows how Malala is a source of inspiration in her own right. Amira Bakir, a first year student at the George Washington University who had the opportunity to use the resource guide in one of her classes, said at the November launch of the guide, "I pray that one day society can come to accept the success of a Muslim woman not as a coincidence, or something in spite of her faith, but as the culmination of her unique identity and all the parts of which she's made up. And I think Malala's story is the first stepping stone in that direction, and for that I'm very thankful."
Indeed, the resource guide continues to reach students in virtually every corner of the world. At the time of this publication, the resource guide has been downloaded in 14 countries on every continent except Antarctica. In time, we hope to have it translated into many more languages and extend Malala's message even further.
With this resource guide, students can do much more than write interesting term papers; they can understand precisely how they can get involved to help create meaningful change and make a difference in the world. It's only fitting that a student as passionate as Malala has, in her unique way, become a vital educator. And while she is still quite committed to her own academic future, Malala's personal story promises to teach and inspire millions, proving that I Am Malala is not just a book but a global movement.
Dr. Mary Ellsberg is the Director of the Global Women's Institute at the George Washington University. To learn more about the resource guide, visit malala.gwu.edu.
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