Launch of I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators, with Ziauddin Yousafzai

cvrart_I-Am-Malala_220x342On November 13, 2014, the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute launched I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators in Washington, DC. The event included keynote speaker Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai and a co-founder and chairperson of the Malala Fund. Malala and her father are Pakistani activists for girls’ education and human rights, and their cause was propelled to the international stage after Malala was shot in the face by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for openly supporting education for girls. When asked recently if she considered herself a feminist, Malala responded, “If feminism means equality for all people, then yes, I am a feminist.”

There were two panels at the launch, which included prominent guests such as Catherine Russell, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Ahmad Shah, the founder and president of the Global Peace Council Pakistan (GPCP), Jahan Zeb, an advisor to the chair of the Malala Fund and a member of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Participation in Peacebuilding, several George Washington University professors, and a George Washington University first year student.

I Am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators is a free, online teaching guide targeted at high school, college, and university students both in the United States and internationally. Its purpose is to highlight and explain complex issues of politics, history, religion, and human rights by using lessons based on eight different themes from Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala. This project was created through collaboration between the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute, Little, Brown and Company, and the Malala Fund.

In Mr. Yousafzai’s keynote address, he emphasized the pressing need for international advocacy and efforts for girls’ education. He argued that men’s involvement is crucial in changing social norms and oppressive practices towards women in patriarchal societies. He further advocated for fathers and brothers to lead this effort, stating that “some say you need courage to speak out. I say you are a coward not to speak out.” Mr. Yousafzai praised the resource guide for its ability to connect people around the world across the divisions of North, South, East, and West communities. He insisted that the book does not have political agenda, and is only to spread “the love of humanity” through Malala’s story.

The first panel with Ambassador Russell and Mr. Yousafzai focused on the policy challenges of ensuring quality education for girls worldwide. Ambassador Russell argued for a holistic approach to these obstacles, which include the safety of girls while attending school, traditional social attitudes towards girls’ education, child marriage, inadequate school facilities and resources, and various other context-specific concerns. Mr. Yousafzai and Ambassador Russell both pushed for a focus on women and girls’ empowerment efforts in conflict zones, where these challenges are intensified. Mr. Yousafzai and Ambassador Russell also emphasized the value that empowered and educated women provide to their societies because they are able to contribute monetarily to their families. Lastly, the Ambassador stated President Obama’s commitment to education for girls worldwide and highlighted that girls’ education and freedom from forced marriage not only create more vibrant, stable states, but are also internationally recognized human rights.

The second panel described the details of the resource guide and its purpose in classrooms. The authors of the guide hope that Malala’s story will fuel a broader movement for girls’ education and empowerment, and that it will foster further dialogue between the youth in Western and developing countries. Mr. Yousafzai cautioned that this movement must focus on ensuring quality education; he highlighted how easily education can be manipulated to allow indoctrination, using the Taliban as an example. However with quality education, “nations can do anything.” Overall the panelists expressed optimism in the launch of the resource guide and in transforming Malala’s story from a media phenomenon into an effective and powerful international development tool for human rights.

You can learn more about the resource guide here!

Gender Gap in Education Remains High in Low and Lower Middle Income Countries

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UNESCO, UNGEI

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), has launched a gender summary report called  Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2013/14 for this year’s International Women’s Day. According to the report, gender imbalance in global education has left over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries unable to read a single sentence (UNGEI, 2014). Following the adoption of  The Dakar Framework for Action at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in 2000, participants from around the world agreed to the achievement of education for all (EFA) goals and targets for every citizen and for every society. Almost 15 years after The Dakar Declaration and the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), illiteracy especially among girls remain a big concern for lower and lower middle income countries. Despite the progresses towards achieving universal primary education and improving literacy, in 2011, only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education and only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education.Girls living in the Arab States are at a greater disadvantage: the share of females in the out-of-school population is 60 %, compared with 57% in South and West Asia and 54 % in sub-Saharan Africa (UNGEI, 2014). The report stresses the need for supporting teachers, helping  the most vulnerable girls (poor, minority and those in remote geographic areas) and improving the quality of education as  we develop the post-2015 education goals. “Post-2015 education goals will only be achieved if they are accompanied by clear, measurable targets with indicators tracking disadvantaged to ensure that no one is left behind.” (EFA Global Report, 2013/14).

To download and read the EFA Global Report 2013/14, click here.

According to the report, among others  girls education:

  • helps reduce poverty and boosts jobs

    • education offers poor women a route to a better life, increases women’s chances of participating in the labour force and closes wage gaps

  • improves health for women and their children

    • educated mothers ensure their children are well fed and vaccinated, educated women have have better understanding of diseases and have knowledge to treat and prevent diseases, and they are more likely to seek health services during and after pregnancy

  • promotes healthy societies

    • girls education helps avert child marriage and reduces the chance of early birth

Key Messages of EFA Goals ( Adopted from EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/14):

  • There were 31 million girls out of school in 2011, of whom 55% are expected never to enrol.

  • Reflecting years of poor education quality and unmet learning needs, 493 million women are illiterate, accounting for almost two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.

  • Only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education in 2011; only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education. Among low income countries, just 20% had achieved gender parity at the primary level, 10% at the lower secondary level and 8% at the upper secondary level.

  • By 2015, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. On current trends, it is projected that 70% of countries will have achieved parity in primary education, and 56% of countries will have achieved parity in lower secondary education.

Check Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3

  • On average, if recent trends continue, universal primary completion in sub-Saharan Africa will only be achieved in 2069 for all poorest boys and in 2086 for all poorest girls.

  • Over 100 million young women living in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence.

  • If all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed primary education, the maternal mortality ratio would fall by 70%, from 500 to 150 deaths per 100,000 births.

  • If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64%, from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million.

For an Arabic, French and Spanish press release on the report, click here.