The Courage of Leadership

In this undated handout photo issued by Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, Malala Yo
In this undated handout photo issued by Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, Malala Yousufzai in her hospital bed, poses for a photograph, with her father Ziauddin, second right accompanied by her two younger brothers Atal, right and Khushal, centre. The father of a 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban described his daughter’s survival and recovery as miraculous Friday, calling her shooting a turning point for Pakistan. Malala Yousufzai is recovering at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she was flown for treatment and protection from Taliban threats after she was shot on Oct. 9 in northwestern Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, flew to the U.K. to be by her side. (AP Photo/ Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham)

Malala's story exemplifies the true courage of leadership.

Hers is the sort of remarkable tenacity we've seen before in leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Aung San Suu Kyi, Leymah Gbowee, and that lone young man who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square.

These are individuals whose personal courage -- transmitted across the world -- captures both the heart and the imagination -- and frames an issue so clearly that millions can't help but rise up in solidarity.

And Malala's leadership comes not a moment too soon. Her act of courage has, at last, focused global attention on the types of brutal discrimination so many girls around the world face. She spotlights the 66 million girls who are denied an education, forced into marriage, sold to a stranger, traded for cattle, beaten, raped, or even murdered -- often with the tacit complicity of their community.

On the United Nations' first International Day of the Girl, we heard from Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who like Malala, also battled the odds to receive an education. During the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, Shabana dressed as a boy so that she could attend a secret school. Now 22 years-old, and a Middlebury graduate, she has returned to Kabul to start her own school for girls, called SOLA.

Like Shabana, who risked her life to learn, Malala is just a child who wants to go to school. Yet she is also a beacon of change, and each of us has a responsibility to take notice, and to join her in demanding change.

Sometimes it takes a great leader to show us why there must be change - and to inspire us to take action. For Malala, that means changing the tradition in her region of Pakistan of banning girls from school. Keeping a whole population ignorant is a means to an end: total control. And it is also the fastest route to grinding poverty.

Yet the reality is that investing in a girl is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. When a girl goes to school, she is more likely to earn an income, have fewer and healthier children, invest in her family, and ultimately help lift herself and community out of poverty.

10x10 is a global action campaign for girls' education, dedicated to improving the future for every girl - in her home, community, nation, and around the world. That is why today we stand in solidarity with Malala. The world needs more individuals like her, who are willing to stand up and say, "It is time we change."

On this day, ask yourself if you are willing to stand up for change, like Malala... and if the answer is yes, please join us. Over the course the campaign, we will give you the resources and guidance you need to become a leader in your community.

This blog is part of a series called "Malala's Impact," which highlights the need for global education. The series is launched in partnership with the Global Day of Action for Malala campaign, which takes place on November 10.