FIRST THOUGHT: The Right to Education
We often think that those with yachts, tropical vacations and diamond necklaces are the privileged ones. But we are privileged too. Many of us have years of education under our belts. We were picked up by the school bus with our lunch boxes and sat in a safe building to acquire knowledge from talented educators.
But women and girls throughout history have struggled with and fought with their lives for the right to learn, an act many of us take for granted. Today, offer a nod of gratitude for your education and choose to pay that knowledge forward to some of the young girls in your own life.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 31 Million
In modern times, it’s difficult to grasp that throughout the world, many girls and women are not given the right to receive education. It’s still a seriously big issue. In fact, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there are 31 million girls in the world who are not receiving elementary-school education. And 17 million of those girls are expected to never go to school. Countries with more than a million girls unable or prohibited to attend school include Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
But imagine a world in which those 31 million girls have access to education and the chance to learn everything they want to learn. We could have a world full of 31 million more female scientists, doctors and civic leaders. That’s the world I want to live in!
WOMAN TO WATCH: Shiza Shahid, Co-founder of The Malala Fund
Shiza Shahid is driven by a very serious mission. Growing up in Islamabad, Pakistan, she has been an advocate and activist for girls’ education and gender equality since she was 14 years old, working in female prisons and volunteering with an organization that would provide those women with access to health care. When she was 16 and her best friend died in the 2005 earthquake along the Pakistani border, she volunteered day in and day out at an earthquake relief camp.
Shiza learned about Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girls’ education advocate, through a YouTube video during her college career at Stanford, and she was immediately driven to connect with her. Shiza arranged a weeklong camp for Malala and some other village girls, connecting them with women who could act as mentors.
In 2012, when the Taliban, vowing to assassinate Malala because of her outspoken opinions on girls’ rights to education, stopped her school bus on the ride home and shot her in the head, shoulder and neck, Shiza immediately flew to the British hospital where Malala was being treated, and acted as an intermediary between Malala’s family and the media. Not only did Malala survive the horrific attack, but, with help from Shiza, she became an even fiercer advocate for girls’ education.
In the wake of the attack, Shiza co-founded The Malala Fund with Malala and Malala’s father. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to giving girls throughout the world access to the education they deserve and so desperately want, with a focus on three aspects: storytelling, advocacy and funding local entrepreneurs in areas where girls’ education is limited.
Shiza is also a host of the show ASPIREist, through which she highlights social injustices and brings awareness to important causes. And this summer, Shiza announced she is creating a fund called NOW Ventures that will back mission-driven startups, with a focus on teams that are diverse and include women.
By putting her passion at the forefront of her career, Shiza is helping an increasing number of women and girls across the planet, and truly making the world a better place.
QUITE THE QUOTE
With Malala Yousafzai and Shiza Shahid in mind, I’ll leave you today with this quote from renowned philanthropist Melinda Gates, who said:
“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman.”
That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.