Today is the first annual International Day of the Girl. Its mission: to highlight, celebrate, discuss, and advance girls’ lives and opportunities across the globe. And it’s come not a moment too soon. On Tuesday, fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a National Peace Award winner, was shot by Pakistani Taliban for daring to stand up for a girl’s right to receive an education. Yes, tragically, you read that right. The Taliban, having warned Ms. Yousafzai to stop her advocacy work on behalf of her gender, sent two armed gunmen to her school bus and shot her in the head.
On Wednesday, surgeons removed the bullet, and doctors are hopeful that there has been no brain damage and that she will ultimately return to school. Of that, Fazal Moula Zahid, a close family friend, is certain: “She will never, never drop out of school. She will go to the last.”
For violence like this to occur anywhere on this planet in 2012 is horrific, barbaric, terrifying … what word or words are really big enough to communicate the enormity of the injustice? Maybe Nicholas Kristof comes close when he insists “the global struggle for gender equality is the paramount moral struggle of this century, equivalent to the campaigns against slavery in the 19th century and against totalitarianism in the 20th century.” (If you haven’t read his book Half the Sky, you must.)
It is girls like Malala, who are nothing less than the hope for the future of all of us, that the United Nations honors and champions with The International Day of the Girl. In the US, the effort to establish the campaign was led by School Girls Unite, an organization of students and young women leaders. See them and other young women in action at events around the country and on social media throughout the day. Follow the hashtags #DayOfTheGirl and #IDG2012 on twitter, and go to www.DayoftheGirlSummit.com at 7PM ET for a LIVE broadcast of #dayofthegirl celebrations.
I could go on and on about how much I believe girls, especially young media-savvy girls, are leading the way to a happier, healthier and much more humane future. Just in the past few months girls have taken on Big Media in campaigns against airbrushing and the underrepresentation (as in complete absence) of female Presidential debate moderators. And of course, there is Malala Yousafzai, who took on the Taliban when few adults in her country would dare to do the same. But since today is the Day of the Girl, I’m going to let them speak for themselves.
Annabelle, a seventh grade leader from School Girls Unite: “For such a long time, people have disrespected us and have thought men are superior. But this is our time. We need to protect our rights.”
Sihiba Yusufu, a thirteen-year-old mother from Tanzania: “My life is very different to most mums on Pinterest. By sharing I hope to help other girls keep their childhood.”
Malala Yousafzai, fourteen year old National Peace Award winner: “I want an access to the world of knowledge.”
How will you celebrate?
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.